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NEW YORK 1935 








THE essays of which this book is composed are reprinted, 
often with slight alterations, from the Illustrated London 
News, by kind permission of the proprietors of that 


































XXXI ON FACING FACTS . . . , . . .198 






/ On Monsters and Logic 

AT the time of writing, the Press is boiling and bubbling 
with the emergence and appearance, or the submersion 
and disappearance, of the Monster who is supposed to 
live, for reasons best known to himself, at the bottom of 
Loch Ness. I need not say that such a Monster, whether 
or no he is an inhabitant of Loch Ness, is a very popular 
inhabitant of Fleet Street. He is doubtless a benevolent 
Monster; and has helped many poor journalists to place 
paragraphs here and there. In the grand imagery of the 
Book of Job, he maketh the deep to boil like a pot; and 
has also been the occasion of a good deal of pot-boiling. 
But all this is a casual and even happy accident, and does 
not affect the question itself one way or the other. Nor 
indeed am I myself primarily concerned to settle the 
question itself one way or the other. What interests me 
is the argument as an argument; which has followed 
almost exactly in the ancient serpentine track of the 
Great Sea-serpent. I am not especially excited about 
these alleged animals; and I do not understand why any- 
body should be so curiously excited about them. I do 
not know, or care, whether there is a monster in the 


loch, or a sea-serpent in the sea. But I am very much in- 
terested in another monster; a much more monstrous 
monster; one so fantastic that he might well be a fabu- 
lous monster. This monster is called Man; and instead 
of the humps and horns and writhing tails, with which 
such creatures are credited, he has an abnormal ex- 
crescence called a Head. In this, it has beeti conjectured, 
there resides some mysterious principle called a Mind; 
but really, it has lately become almost as elusive and 
evasive as the Monster of Loch Ness. 

For the way in which most critics, especially sceptical 
critics, write about a thing like the lake-monster is very 
like the way in which they wrote about the sea-serpent. 
That is, it is both mysterious and mystical and irrational. 
First of all, there is a vague assumption, the very reverse 
of the truth, which is made silently at the start, and 
thus confuses the whole controversy; the vague assump- 
tion that the subject is in some way a semi-mystical sub- 
ject. One article, by a very able journalist, actually 
opened with some such phrase as, "In dealing with these 
stories of ghosts or monsters." I cannot for the life of me 
see that a sea-serpent is any more mystical than a .sea- 
snail. In one sense they are all mystical, since the mystery 
of the Creator is in all His works; but that sort of mystery 
attaches quite as much to the smallest shrimp eaten by 
a tripper at Margate. But the largest snake in the sea 


is no more supernatural than the smallest snake in the 
sea. How large such creatures can be in the depths of 
the sea may be a matter of scientific discussion; but it 
ought, to be a matter of purely scientific discussion. 
There is nothing particularly transcendental about hold- 
ing that there are bigger fish in the sea than ever came 
out of it. Nor is there any touch of the Celtic Twilight, 
or any glamour of Gaelic witchery and vision, about the 
proposition that a very large live animal, if there be 
any such large live animal, might be in the bottom of 
a Scotch loch as much as anywhere else. Whether there 
is or not is simply a question of human evidence; and 
even the waverers admit that the evidence for it is 
pretty strong. 

Now it is here I note that queer quality in the Mind, 
since it has become what is called the Modern Mind. 
I do not say it with a sneer; for in this case it covers 
some modern minds that really are minds, and, on their 
own line, some of our best minds. The truth I thinkjs 
this: that since theriumphof what was called rational- 
ism, "we have successfully cultivated everything except 
reason^ Many mo3ern min3sT^or^n^emTnent but 
normal modern minds, have been trained to a quite 
exquisite appreciation of art or music or landscape; and 
can detect and even describe fine shades in these things, 
that would probably have been missed altogether by 


Aristotle or Dr. Johnson. But if it came to argument, 
to clear and connected argument, either Aristotle or 
Dr. Johnson would have thought he had got into an 
infant school. Dr. Johnson would probably have said 
an idiot school. But I do not say it; having no claim to 
emulate Dr. Johnson in his talents and virtues, I need 
not needlessly emulate him in his faults and exaggera- 
tions. The men with this mental disproportion are not 
fools; many of them are brilliant and subtle writers, 
along literary lines where I could never hope to follow 
them. But they seem somehow to have forgotten how 
to set about forming a reasonable conclusion about any- 
thing. They are masters in the art of appreciating, de- 
scribing, and analysing impressions; but they do not 
seem to know how to make any deductions. As an 
Impressionist artist could paint a perfect impression of 
Loch Ness, so this Impressionist critic could record 
a perfect impression of the Monster of Loch 
Ness. But when he is asked to test the impression 
in relation to truth, he does not seem to know the 
technique of such a test. For instance, there is 00 finer 
or more penetrating literary critic than. Mr. Robert 
Lynd, especially when the literary critic is really criticiz- 
ing literature, Set Mr. Robert Lynd to write about Mr. 
W. B. Yeats, and he will estimate the style and stature 
of that great poet about as well as it could be done, and 


certainly much better than I could do it. But set him to 
inquire whether Mr. Yeats's stories of eastern wizards 
or Irish fairies are true, and I respectfully doubt whether 
he would be half so scientific as I should. 

He wrote an article on the Monster o Loch Ness, 
in a recent issue of the Daily News, which exactly 
illustrates the elusive thing I mean. It was a very good 
article; but it was full of hesitations and (if I may use 
the jargon) of inhibitions. He said first, with obvious 
common sense, that it is very difficult to contradict the 
evidence of a score of apparently normal and respectable 
and independent witnesses. The same might be said of 
the Great Sea-serpent; the number of people who could 
swear to having seen it must by this time amount to 
pretty nearly a hundred. So far so good. It is for the 
other side to rebut this evidence definitely and in detail; 
to cross-examine these witnesses; to prove a rather im- 
probable conspiracy, or to construct some theory to ex- 
plain that number of people having been deceived. But 
the critic, feeling that in fairness he must pass on to 
state the other side, states it in a way which is su- 
premely typical of modern irrationalism. He says, in 
these words or words to the same effect: "But if I agree 
to believe in the Monster of Loch Ness, where am I 
to draw the line? There are such a lot of other stories 
about other monsters" and he proceeds to pour forth 


the riches o his wide reading, introducing us to the 
most fascinating and agreeable monsters of Celtic or 
Norse mythology; and seems gloomily resigned to go 
through with it and swallow all the monsters one after 
another, back to the whale that swallowed Jonah or 
the dragon that was to devour Andromeda. Anyone 
addicted to the antiquated mystery of Logic, so much 
studied by the superstitious Schoolmen of the Middle 
Ages, will be rather disposed to stare at this statement 
of the difficulty. He will naturally answer: "Well, I 
suppose you will draw the line where the evidence fails* 
You accept this Monster because there are twenty peo- 
ple to give evidence. You will naturally believe less 
where there is less evidence; and not at all where there 
is no evidence. There is really no need for you to draw 
abstract a priori distinctions between a Seven-headed 
Dragon in Persia and a Nine-headed Dragon in Japan,*' 
The truth is that the critic is misled from the first by 
that vague idea that, in accepting any such story, he is 
stepping across the border of fairyland, where any fan- 
tastic thing may happen* This is a fallacy even about 
preternatural things. A man may believe one miracle 
and not another miracle; knowing there are true and 
false miracles, as there are true and false banknotes. But 
the Monster is not a miracle. Something like it may 


occur along with magic in magic tales. But a man 
might as well say that millers and cats and princesses 
are fabulous animals, because they appear side by side 
with goblins and mermaids in the stories of the nursery. 

// On Christmas that is Coming 

THESE lines first appeared some time in Christmas 
week; thereby violating all the fundamental principles 
of modern civilization, defying the normal and neces- 
sary laws of Christmas Trade, Christinas Sales, Christ- 
mas Numbers, Christmas Shopping, and even a great 
deal of Christmas greeting; in a word, committing the 
crime of talking about Christmas quite near to Christ- 
mas Day. For the curious custom of our time has turned 
Christmas into a vast anticipation; by turning it into a 
vast advertisement. Most journalists have to write their 
Christmas articles somewhere about the last days of 
their summer holiday; and prepare to launch them at 
the earliest about the middle of the autumn. They have 
to stuff their imaginations with holly and mistletoe 
while gazing at the last rose of summer; or call up a 
vision of falling snowflakes in a forest of falling leaves, 
It is a rather peculiar feature of modern times; and is 
connected with other things that are typically modem* 
It is perhaps mixed up with that spirit of Prophecy, 
which has made the modern Utopias; and has even led 
some men to call themselves Futurists, on the quaint 


supposition that it is possible to be really fond o the 
future. It is connected with that optimism once ro- 
mantically expressed in the phrase "a good time com- 
ing"; which its simpler supporters might perhaps con- 
vey in the formula of "now we shan't be long"; which 
its more sardonic critics might perhaps express in the 
formula, "jam tomorrow; but never jam today." At 
least, in the matter of the serious prediction of social 
perfection, it is hardly unfair to say that many would 
still agree that there is a good time coming; but would 
find it difficult to agree that now, at this particular mo- 
ment, we shan't be long. They would still say that 
Utopia is coming, as some men say that Christmas is 
coming; especially when they say it (with a shade of 
bitterness) about the month of March or April. But, 
under all the official publicity, it is comparatively rare 
to say that Christmas is coming, at the very moment 
when it really is coming. It is perhaps even rarer to 
say, with a solid and complete satisfaction, that Christ- 
mas has come. 

For the Futurist fashion of our time has led nearly 
everybody to look for happiness tomorrow rather than 
today. Thus, while there is an incessant and perhaps 
even increasing fuss about the approach of the festivities 
of Christmas, there is rather less fuss than there ought 
to be about really making Christmas festive. Modern 


men have a vague feeling that when they have conic to 
the feast, they have come to the finish. By modern 
commercial customs, the preparations for it have been 
so very long and the practice of it seems 50 very short. 
This is, of course, in sharp contrast to the older tradi- 
tional customs, in the days when it was a sacred festival 
for a simpler people. Then the preparation took the 
form of the more austere season of Advent and the fast 
of Christmas Eve. But when men passed on to the feast 
of Christmas, it went on for a long time after die feast 
of Christmas Day. It always went on for a continuous 
holiday of rejoicing for at least twelve days; and only 
ended in that wild culmination which Shakespeare 
described as Twelfth Night or What You Will. That 
is to say, it was a sort of Saturnalia which ended in any- 
body doing whatever he would; ami in William Shake- 
speare writing some very beautiful and rather irrelevant 
poetry, round a perfectly impossible story about a 
brother and sister who looked exactly alike. In our more 
enlightened times, the perfectly impossible stories are 
printed in magazines a month or two before Christmas 
has begun at all; and in the hustle and hurry of this 
early publication, the beautiful poetry is somehow or 
other left out. 

It were vain to conceal my own reactionary prejudice; 
which deludes me into thinking there is something to 


be said for the older manner. I am so daring as darkly 
to suspect that it would be better if people could enjoy 
Christmas when it came, instead of being bored with 
the news that it was coming. I even think it might be 
better to be the naughty little boy who falls sick 
through eating too much Christmas pudding, than to 
be the more negative and nihilistic little boy, who is 
sick of seeing pictures of Christmas pudding, in popular 
periodicals or coloured hoardings, for months before he 
gets any pudding at all. 

At any rate, the proof of the Christmas pudding is 
in the eating. And it stands as a symbol of a whole 
series of things; which too many people nowadays have 
forgotten how to enjoy in themselves, and for them- 
selves, and at the time when they are actually con- 
sumed. Far too much space is taken up with the names 
of things rather than the things themselves; with de- 
signs and plans and pictorial announcements of certain 
objects; rather than with the real objects when they are 
really objective. The world we know is far too full of 
rumours and reports and reflected reputations; instead 
of the direct appreciation by appetite and actual ex- 
perience. The difficulty always presented to those who 
would restore men to a simpler life on the land, for 
instance, is always some form of the objection (true or 
false) that modern men would be dull if they dealt 


with real land on a farm, instead o unreal landscape in 
a film. As a fact, the farm landscape has a hundred 
interesting things in it which the film landscape has 
not. But the critics cannot bring themselves to believe 
that a man will ever again have a taste for going back 
to the originals, as more interesting than the copies. 
For all the apparent materialism and mass mechanism 
of our present culture, we far more than any of our 
fathers live in a world of shadows. It is none the less 
so because the prophets and progressives tell us eagerly 
that these are coming events which cast their shadow 
before. It is assumed that nothing is really thrilling ex- 
cept a dance of shadows; and we miss the very meaning 
of substance. 

There is another way in which the Christmas pud- 
ding, though substantial enough, is itself an allegory 
and a sign. The little boy expects to find sixpences in 
the pudding; and this is right enough, so long as the 
sixpences are secondary to the pudding. Now the 
change from the medieval to the modern world might 
be very truly described under that image. It is all the 
difference between putting sixpences in a Christmas 
pudding and erecting a Christmas pudding round six- 
pences. There was money in the old days of Christmas 
and Christendom; there was merchandise; there were 
merchants. But the moral scheme of all the old order. 


whatever its other vices and diseases, always assumed 
that money was secondary to substance; that the 
merchant was secondary to the maker. Windfalls of 
money came to this man and that, as shillings and six- 
pences are extracted excitedly from Christmas puddings. 
But the idea o normal owning or enjoying preponder- 
ated over the idea of accidental or adventurous gain. 
With the rise of the merchant adventurers the whole 
world gradually changed, until the preponderance was 
all the other way. The world was dominated by what 
the late Lord Birkenhead described as "the glittering 
prizes," without which, as he appeared to believe, men 
could not be really moved to any healthy or humane 
activity. And it is true that men came to think too 
much about prizes, and too little about pudding. This, 
in connexion with ordinary pudding, is a fallacy; in 
connexion with Christmas pudding it is a blasphemy. 
For there is truly something of perversity, not unmixed 
with profanity, about the notion of trade completely 
transforming a tradition of such sacred origin. Millions 
of perfectly healthy and worthy men and women still 
"keep Christmas, and do in all sincerity keep it holy as 
well as happy. But there are some, profiting by such 
'natural schemes of play and pleasure-seeking, who have 
used it for things far baser than either pleasure-seeking 
or play. They have betrayed Christmas. For them the 


substance of Christmas, like the substance of Christmas 
pudding, has become stale stuff in which their own 
treasure is buried; and they have only multiplied the 
sixpences into thirty pieces of silver. 

/// On the Man on the Spot 

I HAVE always mistrusted the Man On the Spot; be- 
cause I fancy he is the Man In the Spotlight. It is 
rather like the feeling about the tourist who sends a 
picture postcard purchased on the spot; we have a 
suspicion that the spot is only too well known as a 
beauty spot. Particular persons and particular places are 
picked out by the limelight o publicity, in a way that 
is not really representative. In fact, I have always had a 
feeling, myself, ,that the luckiest of all journeys would 
be to set out for some famous place, and lose your way 
and find yourself in another place. It would probably 
have all the beauties and virtues of the first place; and 
the virtues would not be vulgarized. You should have 
the huge good fortune of finding the old, original 
famous place, before it was famous. 

It is still more true of the sort of country that is 
filled with a sort of controversy; where there are rival 
shrines or centres of learning; or competing couriers 
and agents of culture. In other words, the man on the 
spot is even more mystifying or misleading, in a coun- 
try which is (so to speak) liable to come out in spots. 


This sort of rash or eruption of local interest is likely to 
follow on any public debate about politics or religion; 
or anything that really matters; but it is proportionately 
difficult to judge the real proportions. A man who 
would interest us, say, in the cult of Nudism, will tell 
us that it is essentially Nordic; though why people 
should want to wear fewer clothes because they live 
in colder countries, I cannot imagine. He will tell you, 
as I learned from a book I read recently, that Sweden, 
or some such Scandinavian country, is the primitive and 
holy home of Nudism. But there must be a good many 
people on the spot in Sweden who would strongly ob- 
ject to coming out in spots in this way. In this case, as 
I have said, it is not a question of the spot, but of the 
spotlight. Cranks of this kind are advertised; they arc 
especially advertised by themselves. This sort of man 
on the spot is simply a nuisance; and, though it may 
be well believed that I do not exactly worship Herr 
Hitler, and that I am not disposed at the moment to 
enrol myself among the Nazis any more than among 
the Nudists yet I cannot blame Herr Hitler for ex- 
tinguishing the light of this particular spotlight-man; 
and I could understand his temptation if (in the Ameri- 
can variant of the phrase) he really put him on the spec, 
In any case, our judgment of remote problems, in- 
volving other races or religions, is rather hampered than 


helped by the local limelight; which picks out this or 
that figure for a representative of the real state of things. 
It might almost be better to deduce the probabilities 
from general principles of human nature than to accept 
absolutely as infallible the private experiences of hu- 
man beings. Indeed, I have myself come to the con- 
clusion, on this as on many other matters, that the 
method most often needed is the very reverse of the 
modern method of what is called experiment or experi- 
ence. Social experiment differs from chemical experi- 
ment, or anything that is really practical in the way of 
scientific experiment. It differs in this vital respect: that 
the students of the social science dispute, not only 
about what will happen, but about what did happen. 
Two chemists are not left quarrelling about whether 
there was or was not an explosion with a loud bang. If 
there was, both will agree that for some reason a state 
of unstable equilibrium did exist; and that it did hap- 
pily stabilize itself and return to equilibrium with a 
loud bang. But two sociologists will continue to argue 
whether there was really an unstable social equilibrium; 
whether the social explosion was large or small, artificial 
or real, accidental or symptomatic, and whether the 
bang was really loud enough to be noticed. These dif- 
ferences of opinion exist more on the spot than any- 
where else. The specialist on the spot is more of a 


partisan than anybody else. Thus we may be told any 
day that the brilliant investigator, Dr. Hugg, is a spe- 
cialist on the Cannibal Islands, or what not; and people 
will sit at his feet as if he were not only an expert 
witness, but an impartial judge. But, after all, the real 
specialist on Cannibalism is the Cannibal. Nobody 
could be more swiftly and splendidly on the spot than 
he is, when there is any Cannibalism going forward. 
The objection to the Cannibal as a judge of Canni- 
balism is not that he is ignorant of Cannibalism, or 
remote from Cannibalism, or not on the spot as a spe- 
cialist in Cannibalism. It is that he is just the least tiny 
little bit biased; and so is Dr. Hugg. 

For this reason I have long tended towards the very 
unfashionable notion, that what may be called Theory 
is much more important than most modem people, 
who pride themselves on being practical people, are in- 
clined to suppose. I have generally found that the prac- 
tical man was almost always a partisan. But he is a 
partisan more than usually difficult to pin down to any- 
thing, even to his party, because he has never examined 
the theory of his own actions; and certainly has no no- 
tion of the theories of other people. Now I like to know 
the theories of other people, even if they arc theories I 
dislike belonging to people I dislike. When I know 
what principle they are supposed to be acting on, I can 


either deduce their activity or convince them of in- 
consistency. But when a man calls himself practical, 
because he does something and doesn't know why, then 
there is no relation between our minds at all. I would 
rather talk to a man who really understands the theory 
of Cannibalism than to another man so prodigiously 
practical that he was himself partially boiled in a pot. 
I will take an example about which I am really 
rather agnostic or, in plain words, very ignorant. 
Mr. Gandhi has admittedly been a man who was for 
a long time very much on the spot; even, as it says in 
The Mikado, "a spot that is always barred." The ene- 
mies of Mr. Gandhi are also on the spot, and revolu- 
tionary change might possibly put them on the other 
side of the bars. But it does not help me to listen to a 
lady in sandals, who is a Theosophist and a Socialist, 
who says that she has been for years on the spot with 
Mr. Gandhi and knows him to be a saint or, prefer- 
ably, a Mahatma. Nor does it help me to listen to a 
choleric Anglo-Indian major, who says that he has 
been for years on the same spot, and that he knows 
that Gandhi is a mountebank. I think both these ex- 
cellent persons are quite capable of believing what they 
want to believe. But if I did try to gratify my own 
curiosity, they would think it a most deplorably thin 
and theoretical and unpractical sort of curiosity. What 


I should like to know is, first, what a Mahatma is; 
second, whether Gandhi really is a Mahatma; third, 
how you know he is a Mahatma; and, fourth, how all 
this fits in with the indubitable fact that he is by birth 
a Hindu; I believe of the third or commercial caste. 
I really inquire because I am ignorant. I only ask for 
information, like Socrates and Miss Dartie. Mahatmas 
used to be invoked by Theosophists; and Theosophists 
used to be presented as Esoteric Buddhists; and, ig- 
norant as I am, I know that Buddhism is not the same 
as Brahmanism. If somebody would clear up the theory, 
even of a little thing like that, it would help me to 
understand India much better than the mere emotions 
of practical people about what they like or dislike; the 
mere spites or affections of the men on the spot. And 
it is exactly that sort of thing that is never dealc with 
in the newspapers, and seldom even reported by the 
traveller. It may be that there is a very simple explana- 
tion, but I should like to know it, because I should like 
to simplify the primary principles of the problem. As 
it stands, it does not seem to be merely a matter of 
likes and dislikes, but possibly of loyalties and dis- 
loyalties. Ignorant as I am of India, I know there must 
be any number of things to which Indians feel that 
they should be loyal, long before or quite apart from 
the political question of loyalty to the British Empire* 


Now the newspapers have concentrated on that politi- 
cal question, because it is what is called a practical 
question. But, while remaining in blank ignorance 
(like Socrates) , I rather think there is one thing that 
may be known about India and all Asia; and that is 
that it always did, and always will, concentrate largely 
on theoretical things. To leave out theoretical things is 
to be too insanely unpractical, even for a practical man. 


IV On Shaw and his Black Girl 

I NOTICED that in Mr. Bernard Shaw's new parable, 
about the Black Girl in search of God, he repeat a no- 
tion which he and others have often suggested. , t is the 
notion of not only being an uncompleted man, but of 
worshipping an uncompleted God. This amused me a 
little, for it struck me at once that the progressive 
Futurist and Fabian who talks about his divinity as 
"not being properly made up yet," is, in fact, doing 
exactly what the Black Girl and all the most abject 
African savages are accused of doing* The Hebrew 
Prophets, whom Mr. Shaw almost admires, and the 
modern missionaries, to whom he is very nearly polite, 
have both of them always bombarded idolaters and 
fetish-worshippers with denunciations of the most il- 
logical and grotesque fact about their faith: the fact 
that they "worship the work of their own hands/* The 
black African savage takes a handful of mud, pokes 
and pulls it about into a particular shape that is entirely 
the product of his own fancy, and then, although he 
knows he has just made the thing himself, manages 
to fall down and worship it, as if it were the maker of 


all tilings. And it seems to me that the evolutionary 
theists o the type of Mr. Bernard Shaw or Professor 
Julian Huxley do exactly and precisely the same thing. 
They manage to make a god themselves; and then 
somehow manage to adore it as the god that Has made 
them. This seems stupid to my simple mind; as it did 
to the simple minds of the Hebrew Prophets, of the 
Moslem law-givers, and the modern missionaries in 
Africa. It is manufacturing an artificial faith, and then 
expecting it to be as natural as nature and as super- 
natural as God. In short, this extraordinary faith- 
worship is so very like ordinary fetish-worship, from a 
rational standpoint, that I do not wonder that the Black 
Girl could pass so rapidly from one to the other. As an 
old-fashioned person, who still believes that Reason is 
a gift of God and a guide to truth, I must confine my- 
self to saying that I do not want a God whom I have 
made, but a God who has made me. But that is not the 
question, the lighter and lesser question, which I meant 
to raise in connexion with this matter of a completed 
humanity. Mr. Shaw's idea is only connected with that 
by the thin and fantastic thread of his theory of a 
progress permanently incomplete. 

Perhaps we might call the two antagonistic philoso- 
phies the philosophy of The Tree and the philosophy 
of The Cloud. I mean that a tree goes on growing, and 


therefore goes on changing; but always in the fringes 
surrounding something unchangeable. The innermost 
rings of the tree are still the same as when it was a 
sapling; they have ceased to be seen, but they have 
not ceased to be central. When the tree grows a branch 
at the top, it does not break away from the roots at 
the bottom; on the contrary, it needs to hold more 
strongly by its roots the higher it rises with its brandies. 
That is the true image of the vigorous and healthy 
progress of a man, a city, or a whole species. But when 
the evolutionists I speak of talk to us about change, 
they do not mean that. They do not mean something 
that produces external changes from a permanent and 
organic centre, like a tree; they mean something that 
changes completely and entirely in every part, at every 
minute, like a cloud. There is no core of a cloud; there 
is no head or tail that cannot turn into something else; 
it not only changes, but it is itself only a prolonged 
change. While Hamlet and Polonius stood looking at 
the cloud, it will be remembered that, in those few 
minutes, the prince could persuade the courtier that 
the cloud had a hump like a camel, that it was a weasel, 
and that it was a whale. That is the cosmos as under- 
stood by these cosmic philosophers; the cosmos is a 
cloud. It changes in every part; nor is one part more 
permanent or even more essential than the other. For 


that matter, o course, the cosmic philosophers change 
as much as their cosmic cloud. When I was a boy, the 
universe was conceived under the image of the sick 
camel of Schopenhauer; a cosmos which certainly had 
the hump. After that, the Will to Live, which had 
been mournfully accepted by Schopenhauer, was car- 
ried forward with much greater briskness and tenacity 
by practical thinkers such as Mr. H. G. Wells, in 
some respects not unlike weasels; and now it is once 
more assuming vaster and darker outlines, more mon- 
strous and more mysterious, as adumbrated in Mr. 
Shaw and his Hebrew Prophets: very like a whale. For 
Mr. Shaw really gives me the impression that he is still 
to some extent brooding on how the whale could have 
swallowed Jonah, or how anybody can swallow the 

Now, if this merely cloudy and boneless develop- 
ment be adopted as a philosophy, then there can be no 
place for the past and no possibility of a complete cul- 
ture. Anything may be here today and gone tomorrow; 
even tomorrow. But I do not accept that everlasting 
evolution, which merely means everlasting chaos. As 
I only accept the organic and orderly development of a 
thing according to its own design and nature, there is 
for me such a thing as a human culture that is reason- 
ably complete. Only the modern, advanced, progressive 


scientific culture is unreasonably incomplete*. It is as 
Stevenson said, "a dingy ungentlenumly business; it 

leaves so much out of a man," Now, the things chat: it 
leaves out of a man are almost exactly the things that 
a proper understanding of Christmas, and the ok! re- 
ligious festivals of the race, would probably put into 
a man. There is the right idea of dignity, with its 
companion, the right idea of buffoonery; there is the 
real psychological understanding of the motives of 
mummery and masquerade. There is that; spirit, now 
almost entirely lost, which led our fathers to describe 
even their revelry and gaiety as the "high solemnities" 
of the festive occasion. There is the profound meaning 
that lies in the word "mummery/* and its connexion 
with the notion of being mum. There is the yet: more 
profound significance in the word "mystery," which 
also is really the Greek for being mum. In short* there 
is the idea that, even on the festive occasion, naturally 
full of talking and singing, the most sensational thing 
is silence. All this is full of the now neglected idea 
that some things are better for being kept in reserve; 
that the best of all games of hukxmd-seek is that in 
which something remains hidden; and that the solemn 
and religious ceremonial of hunt-the-slipper is most 
impressive when the slipper cannot be found. All these 
old ideas of silence, of sacrifice, of a secret worth keep- 


ing, inhered in the old type o festivity that had a 
religious origin; and the modern fashionable festivity 
is, in comparison, barren and brassy and shrill because 
it has an irreligious origin. It is significant that in 
recent days every sort of public entertainment has been 
called "a show," with the implication that as much as 
possible must be shown. Sometimes it is hoped that the 
show will lead to what is called a show-down, but it 
seems to me more probable that the whole of this 
modern notion of a show will end by being shown up. 
For its weakness is, according to the sacred philosophy 
o the tree, that it has no roots or its roots are very 
shallow; it is too recent to be rooted in the subcon- 
sciousness or to have anything of the dimension of 
depth, in the matter of memory and what is called 
"second nature." There is not enough of the momen- 
tum of mankind behind it, and it wavers and grows 
weary even before our eyes. 


V On the Atheist 

IT may reveal an incurable and indecent levity or 
frivolity m my character, but most information about 
Bolshevists, and especially by Bolshevists, makes me 
laugh. I know that some newspaper proprietors and 
such national leaders think that it should only make us 
shudder, and issue periodical summonses to the public, 
telling us to keep on shuddering. But I do not believe 
very much in shuddering as a way of fighting; I have 
never heard of any stupidity that was extinguished by 
shuddering; and I have heard of several that were 
extinguished by laughing. Certainly there are aspects 
of the case that are no laughing matter, as stated by 
some really responsible writers in their formulation of 
the case against the Bolshevists, But at least there is 
nothing but pure, hilarious, happy laughter for some 
of the Bolshevist methods of formulating the case for 
the Bolshevists. Thus, for instance, when I merely hear 
that some of the Russian atheists have pulled down a 
church, I am naturally distressed. But when I hear 
that they have turned it into something called an 
Anti-God Museum, then for the moment all other 


moods melt into innocent and unmixed merriment. 

So far as I can make out, you fit up an Anti-God 
Museum by getting hold of fragments and relics of 
all sorts of religions, or what you guess to be religions, 
and put them in glass cases with little labels on them. 
I have heard that the embalmed body of a Saint, let 
us say, will be on one side, and opposite to it an 
Eskimo who has been kept in cold storage, for some 
reason known or unknown. Then there would be an 
ordinary Egyptian mummy and the bones of a Hindu 
monk, or what not; and so on. And when the brilliant, 
piercing, penetrating, intelligence of the New Youth 
has once discovered that it is possible to put the relic 
of a Coptic hermit in the same room with a fetish from 
the South Sea Islands, it will instantly draw the logical 
deduction that the cosmos is devoid of any design. 
When that powerful intellect has wrestled for a few 
hours with the fact that the glass case containing a 
reliquary is very much like the other glass case contain- 
ing a ju-ju, it will be fully and finally obvious that 
there is no God. How any human being could think 
any other human being could be affected, in deciding 
any serious question, by such a ridiculous jumble of 
Jarley's Waxworks I cannot imagine myself; but then 
I am of the old guard of the democratic idealists, and 
prefer to believe that all men are equal in the possession 


of human reason. But, in truth, there is really one 
sense in which such things can be taken seriously. In- 
deed, it has a moral against ourselves, which is some- 
times more wholesome than a moral against our op- 

The very worst part of the Bolshevist bosh is that 
it is by no means confined to Bolshevists. Indeed, all 
the worst parts of it the Bolshevists have borrowed 
from the sort of economic and biological materialism 
that had already existed in Western Europe long be- 
fore they turned it into a wild but belated riot in East- 
ern Europe. Thus, while the Communists may be 
called mad in many ways, what they are really mad 
on is machinery; which is exactly what our own grand- 
fathers and great-grandfathers were mad on, in the 
time of the Manchester School, It cannot be said of us 
now that we are mad on it, or even wild about it. It 
can only be said that we are tame, But Moscow has 
the same stupid belief in mechanical action and dead 
matter supporting its extreme Communism which our 
fathers had supporting their extreme Individualism. 
And just as their machinery is borrowed machinery, so 
their materialism is borrowed materialism. It is the old 
nineteenth-century materialism of the stalest and stuffi- 
est kind; the kind that nearly all scientific men in the 
West have now abandoned, because it is stale and 


stuffy. The stuffiness is apparent in all that stupid old 
notion of discrediting the high religions by comparing 
them with the low religions. The staleness simply 
stinks from the open doors of the Anti-God Museum. 
Supposing I were to set out to abolish the art of 
Painting, and thought I could do it by opening a 
gallery in which good pictures were hung on one side 
and bad pictures on the other. Suppose I were a Mos- 
lem and an Iconoclast, fanatically desirous of destroying 
all statues and statuary. And suppose I did it by open- 
ing a museum in which I stuck up the Venus of Milo 
opposite a wax lady out of a low-class hairdresser's shop. 
Suppose I put the Madonna of Michelangelo side by 
side with a South Sea Island idol, little more than a 
lump of stone. Would it prove anything against Sculp- 
ture? And why should it prove anything against Re- 
ligion? Would the earnest and cultured young Com- 
munist gravely go round my gallery, and deduce that 
men must be restrained from their too facile habit of 
carving great Greek sculpture, lest it should lead them 
to break out at last into making waxwork busts for 
shop-windows? Would that thoughtful young man in- 
fer that there was a serious danger of somebody begin- 
ning with something quite small and simple, like 
Michelangelo's statues, and be thus encouraged to 
make formless little fetishes for cannibals? Or dare we 


hope that there would dawn on htm the somewhat 
evident and elementary thought; that most things have 
a better form and a worse; that you cannot abolish a 
whole branch of human culture by showing that cul- 
tured people sometimes do it better than uncultured 
people; and that even when the two men are really 
aiming at the same thing (which is by no means al- 
ways the case) you cannot prove from the unworthy 
example that the worthy example is worthless? Yet I 
am bound to say, as I have already said, that this 
obvious fallacy was not invented by the poor BoLshies; 
they only picked it up from the nineteenth-century 
materialists, along with a lot of other second-hand 
goods and third-rate theories, 

To this we must add a thousand other things, which 
the antiquated atheist has probably never heard of at 
all There are endless complications of real and recent 
research, which have cut across the old simple lines of 
the rationalist theory of religious origins. There is the 
accumulating evidence of savages themselves, that they 
are not quite so savage as they were painted; the evi- 
dence about the deliberate simplification and voluntary 
convention in their religious art. There is what many 
old-fashioned people would call the increasing simi- 
larity between the highest modern art and the South 
Sea Island fetish. Then there is the whole department 


of demon-worship; and the cases in which idols were 
not beautiful because they were not meant to be beauti- 
ful, but deliberately meant to be ugly. There is the 
increasing comprehension of harshness and severity in 
certain schools of sculpture. Above all, there is the in- 
creasing interest in the higher religions, considered in 
an intrinsic and intellectual fashion, and not as they 
were considered by the superficial generation that mis- 
took them for superstitions. All this is the result of 
real research as recorded in real museums, with real 
classification and real and responsible labels. And 
against all this the belated sect would set up what the 
Americans would call a Dime Museum, about as 
authoritative as a penny peep-show. I do not wonder 
that they have preserved the institution of a Censor- 
ship; lest the poor rustics, who look into the peep-show 
to see that there is no God inside, should be allowed 
to look outside and see what is going on in the world. 

VI On the New Prudery 

I HAVE discovered chat the New Prudery is much nar- 
rower and more prudish than the Old Prudery; even 
of the most dingy and dismal latter days of Puritanism, 
The discovery interests me not a little, for I always 
thought I had a pure and perfect and spotless hatred of 
the ordinary sort of Puritanism. But the pure Puritan 
is not so grim and negative and repressive as the pure 
Progressive, The New Prudery does not come out of 
stale sects or old shabby chapels: it comes out of all 
the new clubs, new leagues, new guilds of art and 
culture, new summer schools of science and philan- 
thropy. It is altogether a thing of the Future; or at 
least of the Futurists, who think they will dominate 
the Future. It is even notably a thing of the young, 
and, what is far more extraordinary, of the young who 
would call themselves the free. And the Ten Com- 
mandments of the Christian, or even the Ten Hundred 
Commandments of the Puritan, arc themselves like 
perfect freedom compared with the terrorism and rigid- 
ity of its new Taboos. 

I will give a practical case to prove the sober truth 


of what I say. A certain lady, who happened to be 
looking after the child of a younger lady, discovered 
the infant to be showing a dark and morbid interest in 
the story of Joan of Arc. The younger lady belonged 
to this school which prides itself upon being young; 
not at all in the sense in which the poet speaks of 
drinking ale in the country of the young, but rather in 
that curious country of the young where nobody is al- 
lowed to drink ale, but either cold water or cocktails 
sometimes winding up with arsenic. In short, she had 
all the most progressive ideas, and she, the lady who 
was the mother, informed the other lady, who was act- 
ing in loco parentis, that the following rules must be 
strictly observed in the teaching, or for that matter, the 
playtime, of her child, (i) The child must never read 
fairy-tales or be allowed to hear about fairies. (2) The 
child must never hear of the very existence of fighting 
in any form. (3) The child must be strictly guarded 
from the shameful rumour that there is such a thing 
as religion or religious beliefs. I will leave the lady 
confronted with the problem of narrating, under these 
limitations, the historical story of St. Joan of Arc. The 
child must not hear of the childhood of St. Joan, when 
she played round the tree of the fairies; the child must 
not hear of the life of St. Joan, which I fear was largely 
occupied with fighting; the child must not hear of the 


death of St. Joan, which was a result of the fighting and 
raises the very indelicate question of faith; or what St. 
Joan was fighting about and what she was dying for. 
I should like to see the expurgated or bowdlerized life 
of the fifteenth-century heroine. 

Now it is nonsense to say that this sort of thing 
is liberal or emancipated; it is nonsense to pretend that 
it is not much more narrow and obscurantist than the 
blackest pessimism of the worst days of Puritanism. I 
am not comparing it with my own religion: I am com- 
paring it with the religion I dislike most; and I say 
it is quite certain that the Puritanism I dislike most 
was a wild burst of freedom, and a paradise of pleasures 
and liberties, compared with this sort of thing. I do 
not like the Scottish Sabbath, or the old dark shuttered 
houses, or the long days passed in reading dull divinity 
or in doing nothing. But they were better fun than 
this; they were a great deal more free than this. For 
instance, it is not a plea for Puritanism, it is a part of 
the proverbial protest against Puritanism, to say that 
people were only allowed to read the Bible, especially 
on Sundays. But the Bible is an Arabian Nights of 
romantic and passionate stories compared with the limi- 
tations laid down by this enlightened person. The 
Bible is an Encyclopaedia Britannica of varied topics 
and multitudinous human interests compared with the 


amount of knowledge that can be conveyed under 
those new conditions. Nobody could read the Bible 
without gaining a glorious mass o information about 
fighting, about faith, about religions true and false, 
about mystical or magical or mysterious beings such 
as hover round man in all the legends and literature of 
the world. The little boys who grew up in the dark 
Calvinistic houses of our great-grandfathers did, in 
actual fact, grow up with their heads full of a noble 
noise of conflict and crisis; valiant and vigorous action 
described in the grandest English that our national his- 
tory has known; the noise of the captains and the 
shouting; the chariots of Israel and the horsemen 
thereof; and he that drew a bow at a venture and smote 
the king between the joints of the harness; and he 
whose driving was known from afar off, for he drove 
furiously. That, under all its other disadvantages, is 
what I call being educated; certainly it is being much 
better educated than a miserable little prig who must 
not be told that Joan of Arc carried a battle-banner, 
but must be assured that she only carried an umbrella. 
So far to limit war literature is simply to limit litera- 
ture, and the Bible alone would be a better training 
than a silly scrupulosity that should remain ignorant 
of the war-horse whose neck was clothed with thunder, 
or that wild quarry that laughed at the shaking of the 


spear. It is odd, however, to remember that in those 
dark Puritan homes of which I have spoken, another 
exception was proverbially made, and children, even on 
Sundays, were allowed to read The Pilgrim's Progress. 
That is, they were allowed to read what may be a 
fairy-tale: what is certainly a fighting tale and what has 
actually, according to countless testimonies, been no 
bad substitute for other nursery novels or romances. 
Anyhow, a child with a free soul might find something 
in it of a fighting spirit; and never forget the instant 
when Apollyon straddled over the whole breadth of the 
way; or the dying Greatheart gave up his sword and 
all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. 
I would rather be a dingy, dusty, bewildered, benighted 
seventeenth-century Calvinistic tinker than never have 
heard in this vale of tears any distant note of that 

The intellectual interest of this bit of bigotry lies 
in this: that the new philosophies and new religions 
and new social systems cannot draw up their own 
plans for emancipating mankind without still further 
enslaving mankind. They cannot carry out even what 
they regard as the most ordinary reforms without in- 
stantly imposing the most extraordinary restrictions. 
We are to live under a sort of martial law lest we should 
hear of anything martial. All our children are to be 


watched by the grimmest of all governesses lest they 
should be told, even by accident, of a fairy or a fight 
with robbers. Everybody is to be drilled with an anti- 
militarist discipline which is quite as stiff and strict 
as a militarist discipline. All the nursery stories are to 
be subject to a Censor, who shall object if they are 
too pretty, as the very dullest sort of Victorian or 
philistine Censor would object if they were too ugly. 
A new Mrs. Grundy shall arise, who will blush not at 
natural facts, but only at preternatural fancies. A new 
Paul Pry will be sent to sneak about our houses, or 
look through our keyholes, to find out whether (in 
some den of infamy) a child is being taught to admire 
courage. Whatever we may think of the relative claims 
of the two religions, one fact is now logically self- 
evident: that the new religion, every bit as much as the 
old religion, will be a persecuting religion. It will be, 
by its very nature, a thing fighting for its life against 
the normal forces of human nature; every bit as much 
as has been alleged of any system of asceticism or self- 
denial in the past. It is indeed a case in which extremes 
meet; though, in truth, extremes often meet because 
they are much less extreme than people suppose. The 
modern Pacifist is really very like the ancient Puritan; 
the man who now has a horror of all theology is very 
like the man who then had a horror of all things except 


theology. And the proof is in this practical case. The 
old Calvinist, like the new Communist, really did 
forbid children to read stories about fairies. The old 
Puritan, like the new peace-man, really would forbid 
boys to read a penny dreadful about pirates. This new 
idealist is not even new, in the manner of the babe 
unborn. He is our own Puritan great-grandfather dread- 
fully risen from the dead. 

VII On the Return of the Barbarian 

THE common or garden German may be described as 
the beer-garden German. As such, I love and embrace 
him. Just lately, and at historic intervals, he becomes 
the bear-garden German. As such I regard him with a 
love more mystical and distant, and would prefer to 
avoid his embrace. For the embraces of bears, even in 
the most festive and gorgeously illuminated bear- 
gardens, are apt to show that over-emphasis, or excess of 
pressure, which is the fault of the German tempera- 

Now, ever since Herr Hitler began to turn the beer- 
garden into a bear-garden, there has been an increasing 
impression on sensitive and intelligent minds that some- 
thing very dangerous has occurred. A particular sort 
of civilization has turned back towards barbarism. 
When I say this, I do not mean what half a hundred 
intellectuals of the enlightened and emancipated Press 
mean, or imagine that they mean. I do not mean that 
fighting, or fierce anger, or the unmasking of the re- 
spectable, or even the despoliation of the rich, is neces- 
sarily barbarism. It is not; even if it is wrong, it is not. 


It might arise from a perfectly rational, and indeed 
from a perfectly traditional, inheritance of human pro- 
test. Nor do I mean (God forbid) that modern banks, 
or modern books, or remarkable realistic studies of this 
or that, or the perpetually shifting fog that they call 
physical science, or the cranks who run naked because 
they have never thought about clothes, or the louts who 
go Communist because they have never thought about 
private property, or the wasters who sponge on six 
wives and call it Free Love I do not mean that any 
of that sort of liberty or laxity or liberal-mindedness 
has ever had anything to do with civilization. The very 
word civilization is from a city. The very nature of a 
city is something that has to be built according to a 
plan; and with some sacrifice from the citizens in fitting 
in with that plan. There are many modern things called 
Culture which one would be glad to see destroyed by 
Goths and Vandals, let alone by mild modern Ger- 
mans, who do whatever they are told. There are many 
modern books, advertised as masterpieces of literary 
art, which I should be glad to see destroyed by rats and 
worms, let alone Hitlerites. There are many idiotic ex- 
periments in nakedness, in the northern climate of 
Europe, which might well be exterminated by germs, 
let alone by Germans. 

No; the essential point does not concern any o 


those questions, such as arose also in the fall of Roman 
civilization; questions in which the barbarians might 
happen to be right, and the decayed citizens of civiliza- 
tion might happen to be wrong. It is none the less true 
that civilized men must defend civilization against any 
sort of barbarians. And the reason is, that civilization 
retains the power of curing its own diseases, whereas 
it is only by an accident that the barbarians may be 
free from the disease. If England is prostrate with in- 
fluenza, it may conceivably (of course) be invaded by 
Eskimos, who may conceivably (of course) be generi- 
cally immune from influenza. But that does not mean 
that Eskimo culture is really superior to English cul- 
ture. It does not even mean that Eskimos could guard 
against influenza so promptly or practically as English- 
men could guard against a return of influenza. The 
advantage is with our culture even germ-culture. The! 
bother with the barbarian is that he is right by accident, 
and sometimes does not even know why he is right. 
The case for the civilized man is that he is wrong by 
his own fault, and knows it is his own fault; and, 
knowing that he is wrong, may have some reason to 
put himself right. Never be merely on the side of, 
barbarism, for it always means the destruction of all 
that men have ever understood, by men who do not 
understand it. 


That is the sense in which a detached and dispas- 
sionate person, watching that strange turn of the tide 
in the centre o tribal Germany, will be disposed to 
suspect a tragedy. The Germans have done many 
things that many of us may think right, but there is 
nothing to hold them back from doing anything that 
all of us think wrong. There have been many such 
ethical eddies in history, and the trouble with the Ger- 
man ones is that they have always been more ethnical 
than ethical. That is, they have perpetually turned 
back, by a sort of introspective or centripetal move- 
ment, from the judgment of Christendom to the judg- 
ment of Germany. The debate always turned from 
considering whether the German was really right to 
considering how really right the real German had al- 
ways been. It is quite true that the word German is 
used to cover a vast variety of tribes and trends, about 
which historians may debate as they please. But it is a 
manifest modern fact that this racial mass has been, 
even if only recently, solidified by a staggering sense of 
triumph, and a hypnotic faith, that it is all one people. 
Oddly enough, indeed, its really staggering triumph 
was followed very rapidly by a much more staggering 
defeat. But that is the advantage of hypnotism. That 
is the charm of illusion and the compelling power of 
unreality. The Germans, not being realistic, have al- 


ready forgotten that they were defeated ten years ago; 
but they still remember vividly that they were victori- 
ous fifty years ago. That is the advantage of being a 
sentimentalist. You only remember what you like to 
remember. It is also the advantage of being a barbarian. 
When we say that something must have its head, 
we generally say it of some animal with a rather in- 
ferior head. A horse may occasionally have its head, 
but a horseman who had his head, in that blind and 
instinctive sense, would probably have his head punched 
by other and more judicious horsemen. The danger of 
the emergence of anything really barbaric in the world 
is that we do not know what it will do next, or where 
it will turn up at last; just as we do not know whether 
a runaway horse will be stopped by the nearest police- 
man or will be smashed in a shop-window two miles 
away. And this, let it be noted, has very little to do 
with the original cause of the accident, or with whether 
it was the sort of incident we should call an excuse 
for the horse, or even a justification for the horse. The 
horse might have been subjected to a shock that no 
normal horse could be expected to stand. There would 
always be, in judging the horse as a horse, a difference 
between his having shied because a baby threw a ball, 
or bolted because an anarchist threw a bomb. But we 
are still judging, justly or unjustly, according to what 


is called the nature o the beast. Now Barbarism is a 
beast, and has the nature of the beast. It is not pe- 
culiar to any particular movement among Teutons, any 
more than among Turks or Mongols or Slavs. But in 
all of these we can mark the moment of history when 
men turned back towards it, and delayed for centuries 
the civilization of mankind. What is really disquieting 
about this new note of narrow nationalism or tribalism 
in the north is that there is something shrill and wild 
about it, that has been heard in those destructive crises 
of history. There are many marks by which anybody 
of historical imagination can recognize the recurrence: 
the monstrous and monotonous omnipresence of one 
symbol, and that a symbol of which nobody knows the 
meaning; the relish of the tyrant for exaggerating even 
his own tyranny, and barking so loud that nobody can 
even suspect that his bark is worse than his bite; the 
impatient indifference to all the former friends of Ger- 
many, among those who are yet making Germany the 
only test all these things have a savour of savage and 
hasty simplification, which may, in many individuals, 
correspond to an honest indignation or even idealism, 
but which, when taken altogether, give an uncom- 
fortable impression of wild men who have merely 
grown weary of the complexity that we call civiliza- 

VIII On Women Who Vote 

A LETTER from a lady, in the correspondence column 
o the News Chronicle, picked out the present writer 
with a withering distinction; a spotlight calculated to 
put him on the spot. Miss Florence Underwood, secre- 
tary of the Women's Freedom League, was complain- 
ing of the present condition of affairs in which "an 
increasing number of women are having a fierce struggle 
for economic independence and are becoming more and 
more embittered because of irritating discrimination 
against women workers/' In spite of this, it appears, 
men, even including leader-writers on Liberal papers, 
continue to talk in a tone of heartless heartiness. And 
this reminds Miss Underwood of the darker passages in 
my own past; and she thus recalls them: 

"In pre-suffrage days Mr. G. K. Chesterton inquired 
from his wife, his mother, and his charwoman if any 
of them wanted the vote. Each of them said 'No!' and 
Mr. Chesterton remained more convinced than ever 
that practically all women did not want the vote." 

This is something of a simplification of what Mr. 
Chesterton really said; but it is true that the principle 


of what he said was very simple. But what interests 
him now is that the sequel of his deplorable obstruc- 
tionism ought to be very simple indeed. Despite his 
desperate conspiracy with charwomen and mothers and 
such riff-raff, women did obtain the Vote, and have now 
had it for very much more than a decade. If it was 
valuable enough to be worth the frantic efforts of the 
years during which it was being sought, we may well 
suppose that it has been equally valuable during the 
long stretch of years after it was obtained. The whole 
point of the position of the Suffragists and the Women's 
Freedom League was that the electoral franchise was 
the determining political power, without which woman 
was powerless, and with which woman would be power- 
ful. Therefore, since she has now got that power, we 
may presume that it is all over but the shouting; the 
shouting of happy and victorious Amazons, now ruling 
the world by right. So that is all as it should be. All 
is gas and gaiters, as the reporter said after the meeting 
of Broad Church Bishops to express sympathy with the 
Oxford Group Movement. All's well that ends well, 
as the hostess remarked when the brilliant raconteur 
became a Trappist monk. "All clear," as the railway 
porter shouted after reading a book by Miss Gertrude 
Stein. Woman has obtained the power to rule; and she 
is ruling. 


But what does this mean, and what strange words 
are these? ". . . an increasing number of women are 
having a fierce struggle for economic independence and 
are becoming more and more embittered because of 
irritating discrimination against women workers. , . ." 
But how can it be that more and more women are more 
and more embittered, and are yet impotent to remove 
the cause of their bitterness? Why do they not use all 
their lovely Votes and sweep it away? How can a mere 
leader-writer on the News Chronicle, a member of the 
miserable minority of males, stand in Miss Under- 
wood's path in any particular? Why does she not lift 
her terrible Vote and fell him to the ground? There is 
evidently something very wrong in the situation; and I 
for one begin to wonder, in my perverse way, whether 
my charwoman and my mother may not have had a 
good deal of feminine intuition about the facts. I never 
said that the charwoman had no real grievances. I cer- 
tainly never said that working women were not under 
various forms of economic oppression. On the contrary, 
I incessantly asserted that all the working people were 
under an economic oppression, and I asserted it in days 
when it was a far less fashionable doctrine than it is 
now. I did not think, and I did not think that they 
thought, that the economic evil could be cured by giv- 
ing a franchise as a franchise to a female as a female. 


A superficial reading o Miss Underwood's dark and 
mysterious complaints might easily mislead anyone 
into fancying that I was right. 

To speak plainly, can the Suffragist lady now tell 
me exactly how she uses the Suffrage, either (i) to 
avoid being sweated by an employer; or (2) to avoid 
being excluded by a Trade Union? Whatever be the 
rights or wrongs of sex discrimination in economic 
organizations, whether capitalist or proletarian, exactly 
how does anybody alter the pressure of economic or- 
ganizations today by means of the Parliamentary Vote? 
Does one do it by heckling one isolated local M.P., 
who is probably a perfectly helpless private Member, 
and badgering him into making promises which his 
own party will not allow him to keep? Does one think 
it sufficient to vote for an official Labour Party, prob- 
ably led by Socialists as fiery and militant and swift in 
action as Mr. Ramsay MacDonald? Or must one 
abandon them in despair and vote for the Communists? 
Yet it is not necessary to agree with the Communists, 
in order to have either Miss Underwood's concern for 
sex equality or my own concern for greater economic 
equality. In any case, the vote has done precious little 
to help either of us towards any sort of economic 
equality. I think it was General Flora Drummond, the 
most militaristic of militants, who cried aloud in in- 


dignation because a great Coal Strike or Railway Strike 
broke out in the industrial field, in complete disregard 
of the success o Female Suffrage in the political field. 
She actually called it, I think, an insult to the Parlia- 
mentary power which she was wearing so proudly, like 
one of her military medals. In plain fact, she had only 
just discovered, in the example of the Strike, that the 
Vote she had won was as futile as the charwoman or I 
could have told her it was. In other words, the char- 
woman was right; and I was right about the char- 

I am not likely to delude myself with any fantastic 
hope that Miss Underwood would ever agree that the 
charwoman was right, and still less that I was right; 
but I might be tempted to add some further comment, 
for the benefit of anybody who can bring himself to 
believe that I might have been right then, or that I 
might possibly be right now. I might be disposed to 
point out that even the present grievance of Miss Un- 
derwood, though more practical and realistic than the 
vague romance of the Vote, is vitiated by being 
founded on certain false assumptions. It is very tenable 
that women and men should receive the same treatment 
when they are both in the same sense proletarians in 
the industrial market. But it is not self-evident that 
they are both equally fitted to be proletarians in the 


industrial market. And, above all, it is not self-evident 
that they ought either of them to be proletarians in the 
industrial market at all. Miss Underwood and her 
friends always talk as if being a wage-slave in the cor- 
rupt and decaying capitalist system were a sort of 
beatific benefit, first bestowed on men in a spirit of 
favouritism, and then withheld from women in a spirit 
of jealousy or repression. Even the happy and radiant 
condition of trade and commerce today cannot convince 
me that this view is to be accepted as a first principle. 

In other words, there is just one little hitch between 
us: that what she calls economic independence I call 
economic dependence. The condition of dependence is 
involved in the condition of employment; especially 
under the extreme modern menace of unemployment. 
It is not an insult especially levelled at women; it is an 
insecurity and injustice belonging to the whole recent 
phase of the government of men. To found a saner 
society, in which men and women work on their own 
property and not only on the property of the rich, is a 
very steep and challenging sort of project. But I have 
never repented of having said that more Votes would 
do little to bring it about; nor should I think that the 
Suffragists had come any nearer to bringing it about, 
even if they could have turned all wives and mothers 
into the well-paid servants of a big Trust, 

IX On the Fallacy of Eugenics 

I SHALL go down to my neglected pauper's grave con- 
tinuing to praise, honour, and glorify the name of 
Mr. H. G. Wells; even if he is by that time himself 
in the great Cosmic Crematorium and Pagan Pantheon, 
where will stand the sacred urns of the founders of the 
New State. And this will not be merely for the obvious 
reasons. It is not only, though it is very largely, be- 
cause he filled my youth with the fairy-tales of science, 
which are so much more delightful when you have 
really discovered that they are faiiy-tales. It will not be 
only because he has interpreted the mind of the Eng- 
lishman who, even by the confession of the modern 
newspapers, has been turned by modern conditions into 
what is called a Little Man. Alas, it is indeed his man- 
hood that has become little. He is not allowed to have 
anything else on a small scale, except himself. He is 
not now allowed to be a small shopkeeper, or a small 
farmer, or a small craftsman; so, naturally, he has be- 
come a small man. But what H. G. Wells did bring 
out, in burning colours of reality, is the fact that even 
that small man can also be great. For though the 


Machine may grind the work of man's hands into a 
dust of indistinguishable atoms, it cannot alter the fact 
that Man is not a small thing. It cannot alter the fact 
that the Man is greater than the Machine, even at the 
moment when the Machine has killed him. Nor, again, 
is it merely because Mr. Wells has brought out this 
great truth, of the greatness of apparently trivial peo- 
ple, by a most delightful comedy of contrasts in the 
characters of those people. It is not even because he 
created the character of the aunt of the hero of Tono- 
Bungay; I have forgotten her name, but I still know 
her nature. I know her vety well; and she was one of 
the consolations of life; a real triumph of tenderness 
and power. It is not even because he disposed of a 
celebrated Continental Pacifist with a vigorous phrase 
I have never forgotten: " 'Au-dessus de la melee,' " as 
the man up the tree said while the wild bull was goring 
his sister. At the moment, at least, it is for none of 
these things that I feel impelled to pour out a pagan 
libation before that dignified pagan urn, if the time 
should ever come (may it be far distant) when he has 
provided himself with an urn. My gratitude is grounded 
on the grand and impressive fact that it was Mr. H. G. 
Wells, and not any of us poor slaves of superstition, 
who long ago pointed out the gaping and ghastly sci- 
entific fallacy in almost all that is now being revived, 



under the labels of Eugenics and Heredity. 

The point is this; and it has never been answered. 
To judge by the way in which politicians and publicists 
discuss such matters, it has never even been under- 
stood. The fact is that it is totally impossible to argue 
from the fact of physical inheritance to -any sort of 
result other than the very simplest physical features. 
We all know that a positive physical element, which is 
also an entirely simple element, may be inherited; 
though even then it is unsafe to prophesy that it will 
be inherited. We all know what is meant by saying 
that the Robinsons run to tall men; or that red hair 
is for some reason recurrent and even frequent in the 
family of Pickleby. But nobody wants indefinite length 
as such, or humanity measured by the yard; and red 
hair may accompany any cast of features from that of 
Judas Iscariot to that of Bernard Shaw. All the things 
that are worth having, such as health and beauty and 
happiness and virtue, are all, without exception, things 
produced by a particular proportion between different 
things. It is said of a newborn baby with affection that 
he has his mother's eyes, with tolerance that he has his 
father's nose, with faint alarm that he has his great- 
uncle's jaw. But even if his mother were as beautiful 
as Helen of Troy, . her eyes would not make him as 
beautiful as Paris or Apollo. Beauty in a face depends 


on how the eyes and other features fit in with each 
other; and if all is devastated by Uncle Humphrey's 
jaw, the result will be disastrous even i Uncle 
Humphrey himself was a very handsome, though try- 
ing, old gentleman. For these harmonies which we 
human beings value, as beauty or virtue or the rest, do 
indeed form part (as some of us superstitiously be- 
lieve) of the ultimate purpose of God, but they do not 
form part of what may be called the obvious and os- 
tensible purpose of Nature. So far as that is concerned, 
they are only tunes or melodies that we happen to like; 
combinations of colour and form which we happen to 
admire. Yet the same is true even of what seems so 
simple and natural a thing as health. It is quite useless 
for eugenists to tell us that healthy parents always have 
healthy children; and especially that mentally healthy 
parents always have mentally healthy children. If we 
have lived long enough in the real world, we simply 
know that it is not true. 

But the point is that the reason is really the same. 
Mental sanity, like bodily beauty, is not a separate 
positive concrete character that can be carried on like 
a pattern of big bones or a racial colouring of black 
curly hair. The question about any individual, born of 
any family, is not whether he inherits elements from 
that family; as no doubt he does. It is, as Shakespeare 


said, the question of whether "the elements were so 
mixed in him" as to produce a success or failure by our 
special standard of spiritual values. There is nobody 
with any wide circle of acquaintances, who does not 
know families in which the father and the mother are 
both normal, sane, and even splendid specimens, but 
in which for some reason something has gone wrong 
with the full psychological development of one or two 
of the children. But what has gone wrong is not the 
inheritance of a positive quality. It is not even the in- 
heritance of a negative quality; such as is implied in the 
very vague phrase about feeble-mindedness; for it is 
often obvious that the father and mother and the family 
generally were not in the least feeble-minded. What 
has gone wrong in some manner, we can only suppose, 
is the tendency to achieve proportion. There has been 
too much of something; too little of something else, 
and the combination necessary for normal activity is 
thrown out of balance. The son of a sane man is often 
mad, because he has the right scruples in the wrong 
place. The son of a handsome man is often ugly, be- 
cause he has the right features in the wrong face. 

Now it is true that Mr. Wells, in the early work 
to which I refer, did not go into all this matter as I 
have done; nor do I make him for a moment responsi- 
ble for my own irresponsible speculations. But he did, 


all that long time ago (I think it was in the book called 
Mankind in the Making) , point out the essential fact 
which all the eugenists seem to have forgotten all over 
again. We breed cows for milk; and not for a moral 
balance of particular virtues in the cow. We breed pigs 
to turn them into pork, not to exhibit their portraits as 
pictures of perfect and harmonious beauty. In other 
words, we can breed cows and pigs precisely because 
we cannot really criticize cows and pigs. We cannot 
judge them from the point of view of the Cow Con- 
cept or the Pig Ideal. Therefore we cannot, and do not, 
criticize them in the way in which we criticize our 
fellow-creatures (always provided, of course, that they 
are our poorer fellow-creatures) when we call them 
feeble-minded; or when we betray our own feeble- 
mindedness by calling them Unfit. For the very word 
Unfit reveals the weakness of the whole of this pseudo- 
scientific position. We should say that a cow is fit to 
provide us with milk; or that a pig is unfit to provide 
us with pork. But nobody would call a cow fit without 
naturally adding what she was fit for. Nobody would 
call up the insanely isolated vision of the Unfit Pig 
in the abstract. But when we talk about human be- 
ings, we are bound to break off the sentence in the 
middle; we are bound to call them Unfit in the ab- 
stract, For we know how varied, how complex, and how 


controversial are the questions that arise about the func- 
tions for which they should be fitted. All this is very- 
obvious, and very old; I said it all myself twenty years 
ago; and Mr. Wells, as I have noted, said part of it 
much better than I could. But since there seems to be 
a queer revival of such things, a belated and benighted 
renascence of these fads I fancied were forgotten, it is 
as well to repeat our unanswered answer to the creed 
behind such barbarous tricks; for they are not confined 
to the curious commonwealth of Mr. Hitler. 


X On the Classicism of the Terror 

IT has been noted here that there are certain pockets 
in history; periods which we do not explore, or episodes 
that we never even discover, though they may lie very 
near to ourselves. I have climbed to the top of what 
might be called either a small mountain or an enormous 
hill, which stood up against the sky in the shape of a 
perfect cone; so that I could have sworn from below 
that its sides were as straight as the sides of the Great 
Pyramid. And I could hardly believe my eyes, when I 
came to climb it, and found myself in valley after 
valley, a series of vast hollows or depressions invisible 
from the plains below. There are pockets in history as 
there are in hills; and, as I remarked in a recent article, 
they are very often quite close to us in time, though 
veiled, like the other folds in space, by a sort of optical 
illusion. I could give a great many examples of what I 
mean; I take the first that occurs to me, which I found 
most clearly presented in a book by Mr. Roger Fry, 
on the history of French Art. Very few people have 
any reason to recall the curious and brief episode, which 
may be called, in rather a special and narrow sense, 


the period of French Classical Art. I do not mean the 
large cultural sense, in which we might fairly say that 
almost all French Art is Classical Art. I do not mean 
the general result, which prevailed in a hundred ways 
after the Renaissance. I mean a particular result that 
prevailed in a very precise way, just after the Revolu- 

It happens that I have always been much more in 
sympathy with the French Revolution than most Eng- 
lishmen; or, for that matter, by this time, many 
Frenchmen. I think that, with all its violence, and with 
some pedantry of the sort that is worse than violence, 
it was a necessary liberation of public life from a 
decadent feudalism that grew more oppressive as it 
grew less genuine. I think it had the credit of humaniz- 
ing modern institutions; a credit which many more 
modern movements have quite falsely claimed. But it is 
worth noting, in this particular instance, that the real 
danger of revolution is not so much anarchy as rigidity. 
This has been emphasized, and even exaggerated, in 
talk about the tyrant who is raised to power by a mob. 
It is more interesting to note it in a detached and 
even abstract matter like art. The revolutionary foun- 
tain, which sprang or spurted so freely, froze much too 
soon. It froze into a sort of formal iceberg, looking like 
a marble pillar. In struggling out of the feudal forests, 


or the network of the old despotic diplomacies, the 
rebels had perpetually called on the gods and heroes of 
Pagan antiquity; and all their ideas of culture were 
modelled on the marble severity of the old republics. 
The consequence was that, when the Revolution con- 
quered, this cold classicism conquered with it, and 
seems to have tolerated no counter-revolution against 
itself. Thus there was a sort of tyranny of David, which 
lasted longer than the tyranny of Robespierre. The 
Academies of Art absolutely forbade any artist to draw 
anybody except in a toga or a tunic. All the walls of 
picture galleries and private houses were covered with 
a sort of pattern of the Greek nose, as monotonous as 
the Greek key. It was sometimes considered, appar- 
ently, a sort of treason to the Republic and the Rights of 
Man even to remember any other periods in history 
except those of Harmodius or Timoleon or Brutus. It 
is clear, even from Mr. Fry's book, which does not 
deal with politics, that the first Romantic painters had 
quite a struggle against the new formalism; so entirely 
frozen and yet so entirely fresh. The Romantics felt 
themselves imprisoned in a Greek temple, exactly as 
the Revolutionists had felt themselves imprisoned in a 
Gothic crypt. 

The Romantics, though themselves often more revo- 
lutionary than the Revolutionists, were forced to find 


an outlet, even if it were an outlet into places and 
periods then counted barbarous or superstitious. There 
began to appear, in the French painting of the nine- 
teenth century, scenes that recalled the dark gold and 
purple of the Byzantine Empire, of mosaics and basili- 
cas; the historical pictures were filled with the mystical 
diadem of Charlemagne or the wild, dark horses of 
Attila. In the world of art at least, the paradox was 
complete. They found light from the Dark Ages and 
liberty from the phantoms of the kings; and even of 
the tyrants. If the pictures of those early nineteenth- 
century painters, such as Delacroix, seem almost in- 
tolerably melodramatic, and give a refined shiver 
to whole generations of Impressionists and Post- 
Impressionists, it must always be remembered that they 
also were Revolutionists; they were in revolt against 
the frigid and frostbitten art imposed by the Revolu- 
tion. Delacroix's celebrated picture of Liberty fighting 
on the barricades is supposed to represent the overthrow 
of Royalist tyranny in the streets; but it does represent 
the overthrow of Republican tyranny in the art-schools. 
The same quaint contradiction, along with the same 
real excuse, could be found, of course, in the Romantics 
of literature. Victor Hugo lifted the very gargoyles of 
Notre Dame high above the Classic platitudes of the 
Pantheon. He cursed medievalism with his intellect, 


and blessed it with his imagination. 

This small and neglected episode in the history of 
French culture is worth remembering for many reasons 
just now. It had a great deal to do with the first imag- 
inative gropings of that intellectual revival which was 
represented in France by Lacordaire and Montalembert, 
and in England by the somewhat parallel tendency of 
the Oxford Movement. But it also seems to me worth 
remembering, in connexion with something much more 
recent, much more revolutionary, and to all appear- 
ance quite rabidly the reverse of it. Indeed, it is some- 
thing that manages to be at once the reverse of all 
Romanticism and the reverse of all Classicism. Yet it is 
something with which we are extremely familiar as a 
fact; while we tend only too much to treat all these 
historical hints of similar things in the past as if they 
were fictions or fables. Yet the Republican tyranny of 
the school of David was a fact; and even if it were a 
fable, there would be a moral to the fable. 

Just as the French Revolution claimed to have a 
new and special revolutionary art, so the Russian Revo- 
lution still claims to have a new and special revolu- 
tionary art. In both cases, the art is as narrow as it is 
new; or a great deal more narrow than it is new. That 
is, perhaps, the one and only characteristic that is 


common to the two. It seems as if there were simply no 
chance for a young Bolshevist artist, unless he wants to 
draw horrible pictures of huge oppressive machines, just 
a little too dull to be merely instruments of torture. 
Exactly in the same way, there once seemed to be no 
chance for a young French artist, unless he happened 
to want to draw the draperies of Cato as he stabbed 
himself with the expression of a Stoic, or the hard 
profile of Scaevola as he stretched an extremely muscu- 
lar arm over the fire of Lars Porsena. The artistic ad- 
vantage seems to me to be very much with the Jacobins, 
rather than the Bolshevists. The muscles of Scaevola, 
though tiresome, are more interesting than the ma- 
chines of Stalin; for they are at least alive. Upon the 
faded drapery of Cato there lingers some light of an- 
cient and eternal laws of relation and composition, and 
something that will always remind us of the possibilities 
of grace and dignity. The Classicism that became so 
strangely stiff and brittle, just after the French Revo- 
lution, was at least derived from a great past, and re- 
ferred remotely to something that was sometimes not 
only ancient, but noble. It was better than an art which 
boasts of being, not only modern, but ignoble. It was 
better than an aesthetic of Communism, which picks 
out for worship the basest and most brutal of all the 


inventions o Capitalism. But the moral is that revolt 
seems to produce suddenly an astonishing intellectual 
intolerance; and that what was at first on fire with 
politics turns into something quite cold and conserva- 
tive in art. 

XI On the Return to the Land 

A VERY shrewd and forcible little book called Town to 
Country, by Mr. G. C. Heseltine, happens to lie be- 
fore me and to form an excellent text for that particular 
sort of truth that is most needed at the moment. It was 
published not long ago by Burns, Oates and Wash- 
bourne, and it carries the highly practical and oppor- 
tune sub-title of "A Guide for Townsmen who Seek 
a Living on the Land." It also carries the playful motto, 
"The time has come, the Walrus said." Probably the 
author had in mind some of the implications of the 
great imaginative lyric from which he quotes. It will 
be remembered that the two great Victorian monsters, 
in that poem, being afflicted with a nineteenth-century 
sentimentalism, and apparently with a nineteenth- 
century helplessness, "wept like anything to see such 
quantities of sand." That is the grand old romantic 
emotion with which Byron and Alfred de Musset did 
really regard the infinite sands of the desert. But it 
may not unfairly be said that there was nothing very- 
fruitful, either in the sands of the desert or in the 
sentiment of the poets. I do not underrate the value of 


their vision, from an imaginative point o view, but it 
did turn the minds of nineteenth-century men (or at 
least of nineteenth-century poets) too exclusively in the 
direction of deserts. The great romantics said many sad 
and splendid and profound things about the sands that 
run through the glass of time, or spread themselves 
before the path of pilgrims; they gave many great 
landscapes in a flash or the stroke of a brush, like that 
of Swinburne, "In a land of sand and ruin and gold." 
Unfortunately, at this moment, we have gone off the 
gold, we find an inadequate substitute in the sand, 
and we are uncomfortably near to the ruin. 

In a word, what was recently called "the love of 
nature" had become, for the moderns, very much too 
exclusively the love of nature sterile; of nature standing 
still; in short, the very opposite of the medieval mysti- 
cal truth of Natura Naturans. The romantic poets were 
real poets. We do not mean to sneer at them, when we 
say that they were persons of peculiar sensibility. But 
it is profoundly true that they wefe often content to 
gaze across a desert; and "weep like anything to see 
such quantities of sand." Now there was in old times, 
and there ought to be in all times, a perfectly natural 
and spontaneous and spirited reply to this. There ought 
to be, at any given moment, a large number of poets 
and philosophers "who laughed like anything to see 


such quantities of land." There ought to be a normal 
exaltation at the hospitality and opportunity of the 
earth; there has been in almost all other ages and so- 
cieties such joy expressed in a hundred poetical forms, 
from ale-house songs about wagoning and harvesting 
to long didactic poems about milking cows or keeping 
bees. The peculiar trouble of these times, as distinct 
from almost all other times, is that the mere sight of 
these agricultural opportunities does not lift the heart; 
and men do not laugh like anything to see such quanti- 
ties of land. There was a time when they could excuse 
themselves, by saying that there was not enough land 
to see. But so much of England has now simply gone 
out of cultivation that it might almost as well be a new 
country as one of the oldest countries, with one of the 
oldest cultures, in the great Roman scheme of the West. 
It is not now the new countries, but rather the old coun- 
tries, that cry out for the plough. 

In fact, the present condition of our fields is such 
that a man might very well imitate the Walrus, and 
weep to see such quantities of land; of land about as 
barren as sand. And if we ask what is the cause of this 
strange and startling desolation in the most highly 
civilized States of the modern world, we shall of course 
find ourselves entangled in any number of political 
quarrels, which are often little better than the quar- 


rels of politicians. But, behind all this, there remains 
the real historical fact; that the culture of the country 
has been artificially changed; and not for the better. 
I shall probably be misunderstood if I say that the cul- 
ture was agriculture. It; will be supposed to signify that 
the most cultured people were clowns and bumpkins. 
But it was not so. Whatever were the faults of the aris- 
tocratic England of the last three centuries, it was agri- 
cultural, even when it was aristocratic. The gentlemen 
read the Georgics of Virgil, while the yokel carried 
them out. It was an unfair division of the fruits of the 
earth; but both the gentleman and the yokel were in- 
terested in the fruits of the earth. And there did in fact 
grow up, even under a rule of squires, which I shall 
always think more ignoble than a commonwealth of 
peasants, a perfectly real and practical art and science 
of the earth. The crafts of the countryside were prac- 
tised by the common country people. They were arts 
as well as crafts. They were arts by this acid and actual 
test of all arts; that some men could do them very well 
and some men could not. Things like thatching or 
broadcast sowing were arts by which 'a man won local 
fame; as he might win it by weaving carpets or carving 
statuettes. In a word, the Craftsman was forgotten, in 
the country as well as the town. There is another alle- 
gory in that old nonsense poem of our nursery about 


the incongruous creatures who wept to see a quantity 
of sand. The Victorians, caring only for their vision 
of nonsense, really thought only of the Walrus. They 
managed to forget the Carpenter. 

That is the basic tragedy of our time, which can 
only be cured by a return to practical crafts like car- 
pentry and thatching and ploughing and getting a liv- 
ing on the land. But I took a text from Mr. Heseltine's 
excellent little pamphlet, because he addresses himself 
directly to the question of how so difficult a thing may 
be done. Indeed, his own title of Town to Country 
really expresses the whole difficulty, as it confronts 
many people even in the country, and practically all 
people in the town. I will not attempt here to deal with 
the details of his very sensible advice; I will only men- 
tion one general doubt or difficulty, which I believe to 
have a huge effect on human hopes in this department. 

To put it shortly, the objection almost always raised 
is, "How can the sort of people brought up in the 
town ever grow accustomed to the country?" Nobody 
seems to ask the very simple historical question, "How 
did the sort of people brought up in the country ever 
grow accustomed to the town?" If human nature has 
been hopelessly changed and fixed by less than a hun- 
dred years of industrial life, why was it not already 
hopelessly fixed by hundreds and thousands of years of 


rural life? If it only took one or two generations to lift 
a man from the low and degraded estate of an honest 
ploughman into the lofty and superior estate of a 
shoddy stockbroker, why is it psychologically impos- 
sible for the son of the shoddy stockbroker to have the 
sense to see that it would be better fun to be an honest 
ploughman especially when there is obviously no 
more money in stockbroking? Why, to put it with a 
pathetic simplicity, if men came up to the town in mil- 
lions to find more money, should they not have enough 
of the light of reason to leave the town, when it has no 
more money? I cannot see on what possible theory of 
human nature the one social transformation is any more 
impossible than the other. I know all about the minor 
arguments about the urban amusements, and Mr. Hesel- 
tine deals very soundly with that rather ominous 
parallel, not to say portent, of the necessity of bread and 
circuses. But I do not profess to deal here with any such 
special debates; I merely point out the elementary fact 
that the rush to the towns was presumably impelled by 
some sort of human hunger; and it is a human hunger 
which the towns can no longer feed. As a simple fact, 
there is only one way in which human hunger can ever 
be fed. Even in the triumph of towns and trade, it con- 
sisted only of securing in towns the tokens by which it 


was possible to live on the country. But nobody ever 
did live, or ever will live, on anything except the 
country. It seems tenable that we shall now find it bet- 
ter to do so in a straight rather than a crooked manner. 


XII On Dialect and Decency 

THERE are some who actually like the Country dialects 
which State education is systematically destroying. 
There are some who actually prefer them to the Cock- 
ney dialect which State education is systematically 
spreading. For that is perhaps the most practical and 
successful effect o our present scheme of public instruc- 
tion: that the village children no longer talk like ig- 
norant inhabitants of Sussex or Suffolk; they now talk 
like enlightened inhabitants of Hoxton or Hounds- 
ditch. Among the eccentric reactionaries who have ac- 
tually observed this change with regret, a further and 
more curious fact has also been remarked more than 
once. An Anglican country parson, a friend of mine, 
once told me that it was not only a loss of pronuncia- 
tion, but also of perception, "They not only can't say 
the word; but they can't hear it"; was the way he put 
it. Supposing that the virtuous vicar in question had 
been so ill-advised as to teach his infant school to recite, 
let us say, the "Dolores" of Swinburne which I admit 
is not extremely probable their intonation would be 
different; but without any intention to differ. The vicar 


would say, "Ringed round with a flame of fair faces." 
And the Sunday School children would obediently re- 
peat, "Ringed rarned with a flime of fair fices"; with a 
solid certainty and assurance that this was exactly what 
he had said. However laboriously he might entreat 
them to say "faces" and not "fices," they would say 
"fices" and it would sound to them exactly like "faces." 
In short, this sort of thing is not a variation or a 
form of variety; on the contrary, it is an inability to 
see that there is any variety. It is not a difference in the 
sense of a distinction; on the contrary, it is a sudden 
failure in the power to make any distinction. What- 
ever is distinct may possibly be distinguished. And 
Burns and Barnes did manage to be distinguished, in 
the particular form of distinction commonly called dia- 
lect. But the change here in question is something 
much more formless and much more formidable than 
anything that could arise from the most uncouth or 
unlucky of local or rustic accents. It is a certain loss of 
sharpness, in the ear as well as the tongue; not only a 
flattening of the speech but a deadening of the hear- 
ing. And though it is in itself a relatively small matter, 
especially as compared with many parallel matters, it 
is exactly this quality that makes it symbolic in the 
social problems of today. For one of the deepest troubles 
of the day is this fact; that something is being com- 


mended as a new taste; which is simply the condition 
which finds everything tasteless. It is sometimes offered 
almost as if it were a new sense; but it is not really even 
a new sensibility; it is rather a pride in a new insensi- 

For instance, when some old piece o decorum is 
abolished, rightly or wrongly, it is always supposed to 
be completely justified if people become just as dull in 
accepting the indecency as they were in accepting the 
decency. If it can be said that the grandchildren "soon 
get used" to something that would have made the 
grandfathers fight duels to the death, it is always as- 
sumed that the grandchildren have found a new mode 
' of living, whereas those who fought the duel to the 
death were already dead. But the psychological fact is 
exactly the other way. The duellists may have been 
fastidious or even fantastic; but they were frightfully 
alive. That is why they died. Their sensibilities were 
vivid and intense, by the only true test of the finer 
sensibilities, or even of the five senses. ,And that is 
that they could feel the difference between one thing 
and another. It is the livelier eye that can see the dif- 
ference between peacock-blue and peacock-green; it is 
the more fatigued eye that may see them both as some- 
thing very like grey. It is the quicker ear that can de- 
tect in any speech the shade between innocence and 


irony; or between irony and insult. It is the duller ear 
that hears all the notes as monotone; and therefore 
monotonous. Even the swaggering person who was 
supposed to turn up his nose at everything was at 
least in a position to sniff the different smells of the 
world and perhaps to detect their difference. There is 
the drearier and more detached sort of pride of the 
other sort of man; who may be said to turn his nose 
down at everything. For that also is only a more de- 
pressing way of turning everything down. It is not a 
mark of purity of taste, but of absence of taste, to think 
that cocoa is as good as claret; and, even in the field of 
morals, it may well have the ultimate nemesis of think- 
ing cocaine as good as cocoa. Even the mere senses, in 
the merely sensual sense, attest to this truth about vi- 
vacity going with differentiation. It is no answer, there- 
fore, to say that you have persuaded a whole crowd of 
hygienic hikers to be content with cocoa; any more 
than to say that you have persuaded a whole crowd of 
drug-fiends to be content with cocaine. Neither of 
them is the better for pursuing a course which spoils 
the palate; and probably robs them of a reasonable 
taste in vintages. But what most modern people do not 
see is that this dullness in diet and similar things is 
exactly parallel to the dull and indifferent anarchy in 
manners and morals. Do not be proud of the fact that 


your grandmother was shocked at something which you 
are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being 
shocked. There are two meanings of the word "nerv- 
DUS"; and it is not even a physical superiority to be 
actually without nerves. It may mean that your grand- 
mother was an extremely lively and vital animal; and 
that you are a paralytic. 

We are constantly told, for instance, by the very 
prosaic paralytics who call themselves Nudists, that 
people "soon get used" to being degraded, in that par- 
ticular, to the habits of the beasts of the field, I have 
no doubt they do; just as they soon get used to being 
drunkards or drug-fiends or jail-birds or people talking 
Cockney instead of talking English. Where the argu- 
ment of the apologist entirely fails is in showing that 
it is better to get used to an inferior status after losing 
a superior one. In a hundred ways, recent legislation has 
ridden roughshod over the instincts of innocent and 
simple and yet very sensible people. There was a feel- 
ing, strangely enough, that men and women might 
not feel very comfortable when they met as total 
strangers to discuss some depraved and perhaps dis- 
gusting aspect of their natural sex relation. This has 
already given a good deal of quiet trouble on juries; 
and we have not seen the end of the trouble yet. Now 
it will be noted that the objection to female juries never 


was an objection to juries being female. There always 
were female juries. From the first days of legislation 
a number of matrons were empanelled to decide certain 
points among each other. The case against mixed 
juries was a case of embarrassment; and that embar- 
rassment is far more intelligent, far more civilized, far 
more subtle, far more psychological, than the priggish 
brutality that disregards it. But in any case it will serve 
here, as an illustration of what I mean. The question 
is not whether the embarrassment can be so far over- 
come somehow, that a good many people can discharge 
the duty somehow. The question is whether the blunt^ 
ing of the sentiment really is a victory for human cuP 
ture, and not rather a defeat for human culture. Just 
as the question is not whether millions of little boys in 
different districts with different dialects can all be 
taught the same dialect of the Whitechapel Road; 
but whether that dialect is better than others, and 
whether it is a good thing to lose the sense of the dif- 
ference between one dialect and another. 

For what we do at least know, in the most funda- 
mental fashion, is that man is man by the possession of 
these fastidious fancies; from which the free-thinking 
haddock is entirely emancipated; and by which the 
latitudinarian turnip is never troubled. To lose the sense 
of repugnance from one thing, or regard for another, 


is exactly so far as it goes to relapse into the vegetation 
or to return to the dust. But for about fifty or sixty 
years, nearly all our culture and controversial trend 
has been conducted on the assumption that as long as 
we could get used to any sort of caddishness, we could 
be perfectly contented in being cads, I do not say that 
all the results of the process have been wrong. But I 
do say that the test of the process has been wrong from 
first to last; for it is not a case against the citizen that 
a man can grow accustomed to being either a savage 
or a slave. 

XIII On Man: Heir of all the Ages 

IF the modern man is indeed the heir of all the ages, 
he is often the kind of heir who tells the family solicitor 
to sell the whole damned estate, lock, stock, and barrel, 
and give him a little ready money to throw away at the 
races or the night-clubs. He is certainly not the kind 
of heir who ever visits his estate: and, if he really owns 
all the historic lands of ancient and modern history, 
he is a very absentee landlord. He does not really go 
down the mines on the historic property, whether they 
are the Caves of the Cave-Men or the Catacombs of 
the Christians, but is content with a very hasty and 
often misleading report from a very superficial and 
sometimes dishonest mining expert. He allows any wild 
theories, like wild thickets of thorn and briar, to grow 
all over the garden and even the graveyard. He will 
always believe modern testimony in a text-book against 
contemporary testimony on a tombstone. He sells the 
family portraits with much more than the carelessness 
of Charles Surface, and seldoms knows enough about 
the family even to save a favourite uncle from the 
wreck. For the adjective "fast," which was a condem- 


nation when applied to profligates, has become a com- 
pliment when applied to progressives. I know there are 
any number of men in the modern world to whom all 
this does not in the least apply; but the point is that, 
even where it is obviously applicable, it is not thought 
particularly culpable. Nevertheless, there are some of us 
who do hold that the metaphor of inheritance from 
human history is a true metaphor, and that any man 
who is cut off from the past, and content with the fu- 
ture, is a man most unjustly disinherited; and all the 
more unjustly if he is happy in his lot, and is not per- 
mitted even to know what he has lost. And I, for one, 
believe that the mind of man is at its largest, and 
especially at its broadest, when it feels the brother- 
hood of humanity linking it up with remote and primi- 
tive and even barbaric things. 

Mr. Christopher Dawson has written studies of his- 
toric and prehistoric problems which have been ad- 
mired by men distinguished in evety way, and es- 
pecially distinguished from each other. His work has 
been most warmly praised by critics as different as 
Dean Inge and Mr. Aldous Huxley and the Rev. C. C. 
Martindale. But I, for one, value his researches for one 
particular reason above the rest: that he has given the 
first tolerably clear and convincing account of the real 
stages of what his less lucid predecessors loved to call 


the Evolution of Religion. Whether myths and mysti- 
cal cults were really evolved along one consistent line, 
I do not know. But theories about mythology or cults 
or mysteries were most certainly not evolved along any 
consistent line. They cut across each other and almost 
immediately became a tangle o contradictions. First 
we had the Sun Myth illuminating everything like 
the sun, and enabling Bishop Whately to prove that 
Napoleon was a mythical character. Then we had Her- 
bert Spencer and Grant Allen, who said that every- 
thing came from ghosts and graves and the worship 
of ancestors; and then Professor Frazer, who (with all 
his genius) could not see the sacred tree for the golden 
bough. Now whatever else be true of these theories 
of evolution, they are not evolved. The grave does not 
grow out of the sun; nor even the oak out of the grave; 
and on no possible theory is Frazer a development of 
Spencer. They are contrary guesses; and if there is evi- 
dence for all of them (as no doubt there is) , the evi- 
dence only increases the confusion. Mr. Dawson has 
ordered the confusion without contradicting the evi- 
dence; and his conclusion is that there were, broadly, 
four stages in the spiritual story of humanity. 

The first notion, with which the lowest and most 
primitive savages seem to have begun, was very like 
the notion with which many of our Higher Thinkers 


hope that all humanity will end. It was a broad be- 
lief in what is now called "the spiritual element in 
life"; in a spirit almost impersonal but still superior 
to our material minds; of which we may gain encour- 
aging glimpses and visions. This is the stage of the 
Shaman, or medicine-man, who, as an independent 
individual mystic, can tap the vast and vague super- 
natural power that pervades the world. By special magic 
rites, with special material objects, herbs or stones or 
what not, he could release the mysterious force. For 
note that this is not pantheism; the sacred tree is hid- 
den in the wood or the dryad is imprisoned in the tree. 
Now I could not be content with this magic, whether 
or no it would suit the Higher Thinkers. But I have 
no sympathy with a man who has no sympathy with 
this magic; I count no man large-minded or imagina- 
tive who has not sometimes felt like a medicine-man. 
It is quite natural to me, walking in the woods, to 
wonder fancifully whether whistling back the note of 
a certain bird, or tasting the juice of a certain berry, 
would release a glamour or give back a fairyland. I call 
that being the heir of all the ages. 

The second stage is that of the static archaic culture, 
in which a whole people live a ritual life, generally 
founded on the seasons of seed or harvest, in which 
there is no distinction between sacred and profane, 


because ploughing or fishing are religious forms; and 
no distinction between king and priest, because the 
Sacred Emperor rules the whole round o ritual life 
like a god. China and Egypt and other cultures were 
of that sort. Here again, I should be dissatisfied with 
a religion that was a pageant of nature; for I feel the 
soul, in Sir Thomas Browne's noble phrase, as some- 
thing other than the elements, that owes no homage 
unto the sun. But I am much more dissatisfied with a 
man, pretending to be a man of culture, who merely 
despises that ritual. I can never see the pageant of 
harvest without feeling that it is religious, and it grati- 
fies me to think that I am feeling like the first Em- 
peror of China. I call that being the heir of all the ages. 
The third phase described is the rise of the world 
religions, the moral and universal religions; for Buddha 
and Confucius and the Hebrew Prophets and the first 
Greek philosophers appeared roughly about the same 
time. And with them appeared the idea expressed in 
Sir Thomas Browne's phrase: that the soul is greater 
than the sun. Henceforth the conscience is more than 
the cosmos. Either it condemns the cosmos, or ignores 
the cosmos, as in Buddhism; or it gives it a mystical 
meaning, as in Platonism; or sees it as an instrument 
for producing a grander good, as in Judaism and Chris- 
tianity. Now I do not myself care about the Buddhist 


extreme, which almost unmakes the world to make the 
soul. I do not like Nirvana, which seems indistinguish- 
able from death. But I would not be seen dead in a 
field, not in the field of any paradise, negative or posi- 
tive, with the man who has no admiration for the su- 
perb renunciation of Buddha, or for the Western equiv- 
alent, the star-defying despair of the Stoics. No man 
has really been alive who has not some time felt that 
the skies might fall, so that the justice within his con- 
science should be done; and in the richer tapestry of the 
Christian there is also a dark thread of the Stoic. I call 
that being the heir of all the ages. 

I will not complete the four phases here, because the 
last deals with the more controversial question of the 
Christian system. I merely use them as a convenient 
classification to illustrate a neglected truth: that a com- 
plete human being ought to have all these things strati- 
fied in him, so long as they are in the right order of 
importance, and that man should be a prince looking 
from the pinnacle of a tower built by his fathers, and 
not a contemptuous cad, perpetually kicking down the 
ladders by which he climbed. 

XIV On the Real Animal 

IT is a beautiful and even blissful thought that, what- 
ever happens, it will never be what the scientific fu- 
turists and fatalists have proved to be inevitable and 
quite certain to happen. Among many examples there 
has obviously been a recent Nationalist revival, not to 
say a Nationalist not, in various parts of Europe, at the 
very moment when all the prophets of evolutionary 
ethics had told us that Nationalism was fading from 
the world and Internationalism fated to take its place. 
Among the particular examples, we may all have our 
likes and dislikes; our relative tolerations or impa- 
tiences. I may think some services too little recognized, 
or some successes exaggerated. I think I prefer De 
Valera to Mussolini; I am sure I prefer Pilsudski to 
Hitler. I think it a fact of some importance that the 
Poles defeated Bolshevism in one big battle a long 
time before the Nazis began to demonstrate against it 
in small street-fights; and I confess I think that the 
Battle of Warsaw will figure in history, along with 
Marathon and Lepanto, as rather more impressive than 
even that magnificent scene, some days ago, when the 


Storm Troops, launching that tempest of steel from 
which they take their title, boldly assailed a number of 
little boys, assembled for something in the way of a 
Catholic School-Treat. It is no doubt impressive to 
know that, henceforward, no children of any supersti- 
tious Sunday School will be able to assemble, without 
the whole armed might of Germany summoning up 
the courage to attack them. But I still do not think the 
incident so striking as the stopping of the Red Armies 
at the moment when they were really ready to overrun 
Europe. But, so far as my present argument is con- 
cerned, it is quite open to anybody to say that in these 
particular cases my preferences are prejudices. Whether 
we like or dislike this or that manifestation of the 
new Nationalism, we can all see that Nationalism 
has taken a turn that is more or less new. De Valera 
is quite as national as Mussolini; and the Poles are 
quite as patriotic as the Prussians; a fact which the 
world will be wise not to forget. 

What interests me just now is a sort of guess about 
the philosophy behind these things, or, perhaps, rather 
the difference between a philosophy and a religion. I 
'fancy a religion might really unite nations; as Islam, 
for instance, has united the most amazingly varied 
jpeoples. But Internationalism is not a religion; it is an 
"ism"; and an "ism" is never a religion. It is an ab- 


straction without being an absolute. Now, a nation, is 
a thing; it may be a bad thing or a deplorable thing, 
but it is a thing and not a theory. There are certain 
ways of linking up living things that are, as it were, 
along the lines of life; they are coherent in the sense 
of prehensile; they are not pinned together or pasted 
together or scientifically wired together; they cling to- 
gether; they hold on to each other; they grip. And 
there is always^ a misunderstanding ..^between the two 
types'^! thinkers, those^^who live on two planes^ of 
ti^^ht^jhejgeople who think of Jiuman beings as 
hmnanity; and the people who 

Yet the humanitarians might learn the lesson even 
from the example of humanity. Even in our relations 
with the other animals, there is a pedantic extension 
of humanity and a human extension of humanity. I 
know I am an animal described by the Greeks as an 
Anthropos; not a very perfect specimen for the mu- 
seum, perhaps; but still, unmistakably of that species. 
But if the professor, showing people round the mu- 
seum, points me out as an Anthropoid, I experience a 
chill of doubt and a sense of unreality. I may, in fact, 
be biologically related to the larger apes in the ad- 
joining cage or glass case; though by this rime, I fancy, 
die professor has found that I am the nephew of a 


marmoset or the poor relation of a lemur. Let us agree, 
for the sake of argument, that in a certain sort of ab- 
stract scientific classification I am closer to an anthropoid 
ape than to any other animal. But if anybody says that I 
am really closer to an anthropoid ape than to any other 
animal, I simply know it is not true. I am very much 
closer to my dog. I do not, in fact, feel the fine shades 
in the feelings of an orang-outang; I seldom touch on 
sentiment and affection in my relations with a chim- 
panzee; it is but rarely that I take practical advantage 
of my confidence that a baboon is to be trusted to 
guard a baby or even to detect a burglar. I know that 
the relation between a man and a dog is a real relation, 
and I know that the relation between a man and an 
anthropoid ape is a theoretical relation; even though 
the theory may refer to some realities in the scientific 

And those two animals will serve very well as fables 
to illustrate what I mean by the difference between a 
fact and a fad. The dog represents all the realities con- 
nected with what is historic. The ape represents all the 
abstractions connected with what is prehistoric. His- 
toric man, through all his history, has had a dog, and 
has never forgotten the dog; as may be seen in Tobit 
or Ulysses. If prehistoric man really had an uncle who 
was a prehistoric ape, he had completely forgotten it 


by the time he came to be historic man. Indeed, I 
think he never even discovered his uncle until he began 
to shoot him in Africa, late in the eighteenth centuty. 
Now, according to whether men feel that difference 
between an experience and a notion, they will or will 
not understand the good and evil of a nation; for a na- 
tion is not a notion. You may say that nations do 
more harm than good, as you may say that dogs are 
more nuisance than they are worth; you can say that 
it is barbarous that nationalities should be free to fight, 
as you can say that it is barbarous that dogs should be 
kept to hunt. But you are dealing with a very different 
thing from any theory about how living creatures 
could be related, or ought to be related, or may some 
day be related; you are dealing with living creatures 
that are related. 

It is quite true that the culture of Europe comes from 
something that is much older than all the modern na- 
tions. It is quite true that Christendom existed long 
before any of the nations. But it is also true that those 
who cling to the nations, however ignorantly, cling to 
the leavings, and to the living leavings, of the original 
life; while those who say they are making new things 
are not making new things, but only making new 
names. I know exactly what I mean when I say that 
I am an Englishman and not a Frenchman, though I 



happen to have an enormous admiration for French 
culture and tradition. I do not know for certain what 
other people mean when they say that I am subject to 
the League of Nations, or am a party to a Pact made 
up by politicians in a series of Swiss hotels. In the same 
way, I do not know what other people mean when they 
say I am descended from Anthropoid Apes or Anglo- 
Saxons or Aryans, as Mr. Hitler would say. I do not 
know what they mean in the sense that I know what 
being an Englishman means. 

As I have said, a real religion wou|d be different; be- 
cause a real religion is a big reality, where a nation is a 
much smaller reality. I have taken the case of the re- 
ligion of Mahomet, and it will serve as well as an- 
other. Islam is not merely an abstract statement that 
there is one God, or that the Creed in the Koran is 
true. Islam is a way of going on. Some people like 
living the Moslem life; some people loathe it. The 
same true testimony is borne by the man who says that 
the Turk is a barbarian, and the other man (who is 
generally an old woman) who says that the Turk is the 
only gentleman in Europe. They both mean some- 
thing; because they both really refer to something. 
They do not refer to anything that any chance poli- 
tician may choose to put into a Pact. But, so long as 


we are not Moslems, and have no other religion in 
Europe, men will never entirely abandon what is at 
least relatively real; the traditions of their own fathers 
and the teeming vitality o the dead. 

XV On Dogs with Bad Names 

A NEGATIVE disadvantage attaches to almost any man 
who has a positive character or, what commonly goes 
with it and is even more important, positive convic- 
tions. A literary man, for instance, who has strong likes 
and dislikes, in the style of Dr. Johnson or Cobbett or 
Coventry Patmore, becomes so much of a proverb or 
a joke that nobody can believe there is anything new to 
be learnt about him. Anything new that he does say 
is coloured, or rather discoloured, either by what people 
know he has said or by what people think he would 
say. Even what they know they very often know 
wrong; and when they come to guess, they almost 
invariably guess wrong. But the still more curious fact 
is that even when they know they still go on guess- 
ing. When the new statement is actually written, it is 
not actually read. Something else is read into it, which 
is the recognized rumour about what the eccentric m 
question is likely to state. For, in truth, most of the 
critics have not realized anything about the writer 
except that he is an eccentric, and even in that they 
are wrong. He has generally earned that reputation by 


being concentrated on certain fundamental or cosmic 
convictions. If he is very religious or very irreligious, 
for instance, he will probably be called eccentric. Obvi- 
ously he ought to be called centric, since the centre 
of his mind is rightly fixed on the central problems of 
existence. But these people called eccentrics, like John- 
son or Patmore in one way, or Shelley or Shaw in an- 
other way, always suffer from this curious disadvantage 
that while people nearly always admit that they are 
great talkers, people hardly ever listen to what they ac- 
tually say. People never listen to anything they say in cor- 
rection or reconsideration of anything they have said, or 
are supposed to have said. What they have said they have 
said, or what we have said they have said they have 
said, and there is an end of it. Their position is fixed 
in the popular mind; and, curiously enough, they gen- 
erally begin by being very unpopular and end by be- 
ing very popular. But they are not popular enough to 
be allowed to point out the meaning of their own 

Thus I have seen critic after critic throwing out gen- 
eral suggestions and summaries of what Mr. Bernard 
Shaw would "characteristically" say, which I knew for 
a fact to be flatly contrary to everything that he was 
saying. Thus, because he was an Irishman and pre- 
sumed to be a comic Irishman, and because he often 


made fun of some aspects of the Englishman, numbers 
of people have believed he was a sort of Fenian and 
fierce Irish Nationalist in revolt against the British Em- 
pire. Whereas Bernard Shaw not only never pretended 
for a moment to believe in any sort of Nationalism, but 
at the political crisis he was rather especially cold 
towards the nationalism of Ireland. Nay, he definitely 
preferred, if anything, the Imperialism of England. 
For instance, he was on the side of the British Empire 
against the Boers, when all the national Irish were on 
the side of the Boers against the British Empire. But I 
suppose that the English people will always cling to 
the lovely legend of Shaw scorning them and derid- 
ing them, though he actually defended them when all 
Europe denounced them. You could not add that last 
fact to the popular legend of Bernard Shaw by any pos- 
sible hook or crook, not if you printed his actual words 
in letters eight feet high. The public had got its pic- 
ture of Shaw long before that paricular incident, and 
would continue to believe the legend against the fact; 
the picture against the face. 

I remember being involved in a comic little tangle 
in which two or three eminent men were treated in 
this way; I might almost say that they treated each 
other in this way. Mr. H. G. Wells, in one of his 
phases, wrote a chapter denouncing the invocation of a 


Superman as a sort of separate type of giant or god, 
like the colossal kings of Egyptian Art. I should have 
thought there was a touch of this in Mr. Wells himself, 
in another of his phases, when he described the case 
for the Giants in The Food of the Gods, But I may be 
wrong; I may myself be falling into this error, which 
nearly everybody else fell into on this occasion. Any- 
how, Mr. Wells not only repudiated the Superman as 
a solitary king, but accused Mr. Bernard Shaw of 
having assisted to crown that monstrous monarch. Mr. 
Shaw had doubtless talked of the Superman sometimes, 
but he had no difficulty in showing that he had never 
believed in one Superman ruling all men; but only, 
like Mr. Wells, in the hope of raising all men to a sort 
of Supermanhood. But, curiously enough, in the course 
of this Mr. Shaw had occasion to refer to Mr. Belloc, 
and said that the theory of the Servile State was only 
Herbert Spencer's old attack on Socialism. From which 
it was obvious that Mr. Shaw had never read Mr. Bel- 
loc's book on the Servile State, or he would have known 
that it is not an attack on Socialism, and that it has 
not the remotest resemblance to Herbert Spencer. But, 
just as Mr. Wells took it for granted that Mr. Shaw 
would write certain things about the Superman, so 
Mr. Shaw took it for granted that Mr. Belloc would 
write certain things about the Servile State. And in 


revenge, as I have said, everybody takes it for granted 
that Mr. Shaw would write certain things about any- 
thing or everything. What he did write, or does write, 
seems to make no difference. 

This curious crooked doom, on strong characters 
with strong convictions, has pursued Mr. Belloc also 
in later times, in connexion with his historical biogra- 
phies. I notice some reviews o his book on Napoleon 
which read to me as if the reviewers had never read his 
book on Napoleon, but only made a bold guess at what 
a book on Napoleon by Belloc would be like. Mr. Bel- 
loc does not in the least turn Napoleon into a Super- 
man; he even argues that some acknowledged victories 
were essentially defeats. A still more curious case was 
that of his book on Cranmer. Everybody knows Mr. 
Belloc's beliefs on the religion of Cranmer, but they 
do not appear very much in his book on Cranmer. It 
is a veiy swift and simple personal story, that can be 
read by Protestants or Catholics. What is still more 
quaint, it is a much more favourable personal story than 
has generally been written by Protestants. I do not 
suppose anybody will believe me when I state this 
fact, because of this interesting preference for a fixed 
fancy over a fact. But it is fact that the Protestant 
Macaulay was much more hostile to Cranmer than 
the Papistical Belloc. In Macaulay's version we feel 


stark contempt for a dirty little scoundrel; in Belloc's 
we feel considerable compassion for a timid scholar 
partly trapped into tricks that were not wholly his own. 
Yet I have seen scores of reviews which answered the 
book on Cranmer as if it were a pamphlet challenging 
all the reformed churches. The truth is simply as I 
have stated it: when a man has become a public figure 
famed for certain opinions, any number of critics refuse 
to criticize anything except those opinions. It is no use 
for him to have other opinions, or new opinions, even 
upon new topics. Bernard Shaw must be guying John 
Bull, though John Bull's Other Island is really rather 
favourable to him; and Belloc must be slandering Cran- 
mer, even when he is almost excusing him. 

XVI On the Prison of Jazz 

I HAVE already remarked, with all the restraint that I 
could command, that of all modern phenomena, the 
most monstrous and ominous, the most manifestly rot- 
ting with disease, the most grimly prophetic of destruc- 
tion, the most clearly and unmistakably inspired by evil 
spirits, the most instantly and awfully overshadowed by 
the wrath of heaven, the most near to madness and 
moral chaos, the most vivid with devilry and despair, 
is the practice of having to listen to loud music while 
eating a meal in a restaurant. It has in it that sort of 
distraction that is worse than dissipation. For, though 
we talk lightly of doing this or that to distract the 
mind, it remains really as well as verbally true that to 
be distracted is to be distraught. The original Latin 
word does not mean relaxation; it means being torn 
asunder as by wild horses. The original Greek word, 
which corresponds to it, is used in the text which says 
that Judas burst asunder in the midst. To think of 
one thing at a time is the best sort of thinking; but 
it is possible, in a sense, to think of two things at a 
time, if one of them is really subconscious and there- 


fore really subordinate. But to deal with a second thing 
which by its very nature thrusts itself more and more 
aggressively in front of the first thing is to find the very 
crux of psychological crucifixion. I have generally found 
that the refined English persons who think it idolatrous 
to contemplate a religious image, turn up next time 
full of delighted admiration of some Yogi or Esoteric 
Hindu who only contemplates his big toe. But at 
least he contemplates something, and does not have to 
have ten thousand brazen drums to encourage him to 
do it. He is so far a real philosopher, in spite of his 
philosophy. He does not try to do two incompatible 
things at once. 

Some social gestures have been found compatible 
with social intercourse by that very practical psychology 
which is as old as the world. Drinking is a help to 
talking; eating may be indulged in with due modera- 
tion and proportion; smoking is also a subconscious 
and therefore soothing pleasure. But talking to people 
who are listening to something else which is not the 
talk is a sort of complex or nexus of futility. To listen 
to a loud noise which is noisy enough to make speech 
inaudible, and not noisy enough to make silence con- 
ventional, is a strangling cross-purposes of contradic- 
tion. Also, as I have often pointed out, it is rude to 
everybody concerned. It is as if I went to hear Paderew- 

ski or Kreisler, at a concert, and started to spread out 
an elegant supper in front of me, with oysters and 
pigeon-pie and champagne, coffee and liqueurs. One 
is an insult to the cook and the other to the musician; 
but both would be an insult to a companion who had 
come under the impression that he was to enjoy him- 
self under normal and traditional conditions; of atten- 
tion during the performance of a concert, or conversa- 
tion during the progress of a dinner. Sometimes a guest 
is actually described as being invited to "a quiet din- 
ner." It is rather a quaint phrase when one considers it; 
as implying that the dinner itself could be noisy; that 
the soup would roar like the sea, or the asparagus be- 
come talkative, or the mutton-chop shriek aloud like 
the mandrake. But it does bear witness to the normal 
conception of comfort; that a quiet dinner means a 
quiet talk. Why, then, should two people walk into 
the middle of an enormous noise in order to have a 
quiet talk? 

Nevertheless, in contradiction of all my present re- 
marks, in violation of all my principles, I did actually 
the other day pay some attention to the band that was 
playing in a restaurant. For one thing, the nightmare of 
noise, recalling the horns of hell rather than the horns 
of elfland, is generally accompanied by that undercur- 
rent of battering monotony which I believe is sup- 


posed to be one o the charms of jazz. And, without 
professing to know much about music, I have formed 
a very strong impression about jazz. It does express 
something; and what it expresses is Slavery. That is 
why the same sort of thrill can be obtained by the 
throb of savage tom-toms, in music or drama connected 
with the great slave-land of Africa. Jazz is the very re- 
verse of an expression of liberty, or even an excessive 
expression of liberty, or even an expression of licence. 
It is the expression of the pessimist idea that nature 
never gets beyond nature, that life never rises above 
life, that man always finds himself back where he was 
at the beginning, that there is no revolt, no redemption, 
no escape for the slaves of the earth and of the desires 
of the earth. There is any amount of pessimistic poetry 
on that theme that is thrilling enough in its own way; 
and doubtless the music on that theme can be thrill- 
ing also. But it cannot be liberating, or even loosening; 
it does not escape as a common or vulgar melody can 
escape. It is the Song of the Treadmill. I had grown 
sufficiently used to the dull roar of it, in such places, 
that it did not prevent me from thinking, even if it did 
prevent me from talking. And then, of a sudden, the 
musicians began to play the tunes of a particular pre- 
war period, which was more or less the period of my 
own early youth. Most of them were quite cheap tunes 


attached to quite silly songs. But they were tunes and 
they were songs. And therefore they expressed some- 
thing which has hitherto been the secret o man, and 
the whole meaning of his position in nature: they ex- 
pressed Liberty. 

For that is exactly the paradox of the transforma- 
tion that has taken place. The old popular tune was 
banal, but it was free. Its rhythm was not only repeti- 
tion. It ran only in order to jump; and its last lap was 
a great leap that was called a chorus. The swing in it 
was not the swing of a pendulum, but the swing of a 
hammer when it is flung finally hurtling from the hand 
in the old Highland sport. In other words, it escaped; 
somewhere in the course of it, however crude, however 
obvious, there was a movement of escape; and the 
only meaning of jazz is that there is no escape. As it 
was with the music (save the mark!), so it was with 
the literature (God help it!). The silly old song was 
sentimental, but it was also romantic. That is, it be- 
lieved in itself and its own chances of individual happi- 
ness; and happiness has to be taken seriously. But the 
modern world can only believe in unhappiness, and 
therefore refuses to take it seriously. But the result is 
a great loss of the purely lyrical quality and instinct. I 
do not demand a high place in English letters, or a 
prominent position in the Golden Treasury, for the 


chorus of my youth which ran "Beer, beer, glorious 
beer, fill yourself right up to here." But I do say that 
nobody, after consuming any number of cocktails, has 
yet been inspired to cry aloud anything so spirited and 
spontaneous and direct. The poetry inspired by cock- 
tails is timid and tortuous and self-conscious and indi- 
rect. I do not say that the song beginning "Daisy, 
Daisy," is one of the supreme achievements of the Eng- 
lish muse, but I do say that it is a song that can be 
sung. And in the age of jazz and cocktails, men either 
write songs that could not possibly be sung, or leave 
off writing songs and write fragments of a demented 
diary instead. 

It is the loss of this great Gusto that seems to me the 
most curious result of the relaxation of Victorian con- 
ventions. For we are always told that we were always 
restricted; that conventions crushed our fathers and 
mothers and chilled our childhood with respectability. 
And yet it is certainly true that, if those old songs were 
bad or banal, they were much more bold and boister- 
ous than anything that has succeeded them. Some- 
times I think that our fathers were hard workers and 
really had holidays. Their holidays were often an orgy 
of bathos, but they were free. But the modern poet 
must always be on his best behaviour; I mean, of 
course, that he must always be on his worst behaviour. 


He must never be seen except in uniform; that is, in 
the funeral motley of the cynic. He can never become 
part of a crowd, even for the singing of a chorus. I 
looked round sadly in my restaurant, full of fashion- 
ably dressed people; but none of them attempted to 
join in the chorus of "Beer, beer, glorious beer." So, 
as they say in the short stories, I paid my bill and 
sadly went out into the night. 

XVII On the Deceptibility of 

ONE of the many fallacies in what the newspapers love 
to call the Appeal to Youth is that Youth, with all its 
beauties and benefits, is actually more credulous than 
old age in accepting the appeal of things that are old. 
Youth will quite naturally accept things that are old, 
believing them to be new. When the wilder artists and 
poets of Chelsea and Bloomsbury recently began to 
wear short side-whiskers in the Spanish manner, it is 
quite possible that the young ladies of a similar age 
and set (brought up in an age of the clean-shaven) 
really regarded it as a wonderful innovation and vari- 
ant of the natural elemental hairiness of artists and 
poets; as if the whiskers were wings sprung from the 
human head to waft it into the superhuman heavens. 
Anyhow, it may have looked revolutionary, and it 
certainly did look novel to anyone young enough to 
see it so. But to anyone old enough to remember that 
exactly the same sort of side-whiskers were worn by 
his own father, when a bank clerk under Queen Vic- 
toria, and were known as muttonchop-whiskers, they 
will seem about as dull, respectable, old-fashioned and 


familiar as mutton-chops. I myself am just old enough 
to remember seeing such things at least in old family- 
albums and early photographs. So that the Chelsea 
artist does not look to me in the least like a Spanish 
anarchist. He looks like a rather dowdy Victorian 
stockbroker; as if he had gone to a masquerade ball as 
his own grandfather. Many an ardent youth may have 
followed the Futuristic vision of Plus-Fours where his 
elders could see nothing but a faint ancestral memory of 
Pegtop-Trousers. The disappearance of beards in the 
twentieth century would not seem new to a Shavian 
Methuselah, who remembered them disappearing in 
the seventeenth century; nor would he hail it as a cosmic 
daybreak, or salute the happy and hairy morn, even if 
fashion imitated the beard of D. H. Lawrence, exactly as 
it might have imitated the beard of Alfred Tennyson. 
But a very young person, following immediately on the 
age of D. H. Lawrence, might regard a beard as a bold 
bad Bolshevist sort of thing. The question of these re- 
currences and resemblances, or partial resemblances, is 
almost entirely a question of living long enough; and 
a woman who lived long enough might find herself, 
after a century or two of progress, as particular about 
powdering her nose as she had once been about powder- 
ing her hair. In any case, these trivialities reveal the 
real truth as clearly as do more serious truths. The new 


generation may be admirable in a hundred ways; it 
may be superior to any number of old generations in 
any number of ways. There is only one thing which the 
new generation cannot possibly or conceivably be. It 
cannot be the best judge of what is new. 

I entirely agree that it does not supremely matter 
whether it is new, so long as it is true. A generation 
might reproduce unconsciously and almost automati- 
cally a whole social system as dead as ancient Egypt 
or Etruria, imagining it was a brand-new Utopia that 
even Mr. Wells had never thought of. And it would 
not very much matter, so long as Etruria really had 
some of the virtues of Utopia. But it does make a 
difference in the tone and spirit of the innovator; pre- 
cisely because we know that Etruria was not Utopia. 
We might bring back a better state of things out of the 
past, but no sensible person thinks there was a perfect 
state of things in the past; though many are strictly 
and very strangely taught to suppose that there must be 
one in the future. That is the real difference between 
the man who knows he is restoring an old thing and 
the man who thinks he knows that he is inventing a 
new thing. We may see men wearing three-cornered 
hats and declaring them to be founded on the new 
mathematical diagrams; we may see them covering 
themselves with armour in battle and calling it an en- 


tirely new extension of the Steel Industry; we may see 
them wearing sandals like the ancient Romans and im- 
agining they are improving on the latest fad of the 
latest Russians; we may see them wearing nothing but 
Woad and calling it Nudism and the New Simplicity. 
But there will always be that amount of difference be- 
tween these innocent characters and those who may do 
similar things, but who possess a knowledge of history, 
which is simply a knowledge of humanity. These latter 
will always know that even the return of good things 
will not be the return of perfect things. Sandals may 
or may not favour simplicity; but they did not turn 
Nero into a saint or even a vegetarian. The days when 
knights were bold were days when a reasonable number 
of knights were bad; and three-cornered hats may be 
in mathematical shapes, but they rested on a good 
many unmathematical heads. These are but burlesque 
instances; but the truth is equally true of symbols and 
associations that are quite seriously believed. There 
have been many intelligent and distinguished moderns, 
who have thought quite gravely that certain great 
changes in habit or manners, in diet or discipline of 
life, would make practically all men good and happy. 
There is only one person who is immune from that 
illusion. And that is the man who happens to know 
that nearly every one of these diets and disciplines has 


already existed somewhere; where it did not prevent 
people from being as naughty or silly as they chose. 

The same principle can be seen in practical politics. 
Many great revolts or reforms, or other social out- 
breaks, can best be explained by noting the date at 
which some old experience was no longer even dated, 
but had gone really and truly out of date. It had be- 
come so old that it could easily become new. Thus such 
revolutions happen, not at the moment when men have 
found something, but rather at the moment when they 
have forgotten something. Something has gone out of 
sight just long enough for people to see it as quite dif- 
ferent, if it appears again. Not enough note has been 
taken in history of these dates of oblivion; as distinct 
from dates of recognition; for, indeed, they are dates of 
lack of recognition. 

By the time that Europe, especially Northern Eu- 
rope, threw itself so enthusiastically into national poli- 
tics, and a complete division of the provinces of Chris- 
tendom from each other, it had had time to forget 
what an infernal nuisance it had once been found to 
live in an anarchy of tribes and towns, all with different 
gods and incompatible ambitions; as it had been before 
the Order of the Roman Empire; before politics had 
been unified by Caesar or religion by Constantine. 
When men had got far enough away from barbarism 


and blind wars to forget what they were like, they in- 
stantly plunged into them again. The moment, of all 
moments, in which we should be most careful to recall 
the real dangers and difficulties of any idea, is the mo- 
ment when it comes back revived, and perhaps rightly 
revived, after long periods of neglect, and refreshed by 
the sleep of centuries. I do not say that we should not 
welcome its revival, or accept its return to triumph; but 
I do say that it is at exactly that moment that we 
should remember its demerits, while trying to restore 
its merits. The danger is that we shall produce some 
sort of frozen and fanatical copy; for which one gen- 
eration will be madly enthusiastic, and with which the 
next generation will probably be bored stiff. The great 
men of the French Revolution, who were none the 
less great because many small reactionary schools have 
tried to belittle them, did undoubtedly fall very heavily 
into this error. It was so many thousand years since 
anybody had really inhabited a small and primitive 
City State, of the early Pagan model, that they dug up 
their ideal republics like buried temples and worshipped 
the statues of the Virtues as idols so strange as to be 
almost new. Because they had at last grown a little tired 
of Aquinas and Scotus, they never thought how 
quickly the very schoolboys they taught would grow 
tired of Cato and Seneca. This warning from the Revo- 


lution is a warning also to the Counter-Revolution; and 
the Fascists must be careful that we do not grow as 
weary of the Black Shirt as most of us have of the 

XVIII On the Duke of Marlborough 

THE newspapers have always associated Mr. Winston 
Churchill with dashing and daring enterprises; and it 
is not taking sides to say that his experiments in war 
and politics have been condemned by his foes as im- 
prudent, and praised even by his friends as impetu- 
ous. Whatever name be given to the diversions of Gal- 
lipoli or Antwerp, there can be no doubt that he has 
since started out on the bold and steep and even stag- 
gering adventure of white-washing the moral charac- 
ter of the original John Churchill. Intellectual courage 
of that order demands respect and even a sort of sym- 
pathy. It is true that we live in an age in which the 
justification of Judas Iscariot has become quite a hack- 
neyed piece of sentiment for the films. But at least 
Judas Iscariot was not a soldier. And John Churchill did 
not hang himself. 

The debate that revolves, or will probably revolve, 
round this book concerns me here rather than the 
book itself. For the question divides itself into two 
parts; one of which is doubtless dealt with very ably 
in the book; and the other is dealt with almost exclu- 


sively in nearly all the reviews. With the narrower con- 
tention of the book, I am not here concerned directly; 
with the wider contention o the critics, I am very much 
concerned indeed. The first half of the question is this: 
was the great Duke of Marlborough really guilty of 
all, or even most, of the wicked actions attributed to 
him? I can easily believe that the right answer to this 
question is: probably not. The second half of the ques- 
tion is this: are his bad actions justified because they 
were in a good cause, and (incidentally) were they in 
a good cause? For it has been almost entirely on this 
latter question that the reviewers have spread them- 
selves, in most of the reviews that I have read. Not 
having read the original documents or details, I am 
willing to imagine that many of the ugly stories against 
Churchill can be denied. But I am not inquiring about 
the stories that are denied, but about the stories that 
are accepted. And I am inquiring whether those ugly 
stories do really become pretty stories because they are 
parts of a pretty story which is still sometimes called 
Progress, but which was known in my childhood as 
Little Arthur's History of England. Anybody who 
thinks can see at once that the logical distinction be- 
tween these issues is clear. It is one thing to say that 
we can acquit Churchill of writing certain letters, or 
living by certain expedients, because the evidence is 


insufficient to convict htm. It is quite another thing to 
say that we must forgive Churchill for using certain 
expedients, because his . purpose was so noble and 
public-spirited that his very loftiness of principle 
obliged him to depend on expediency. In the first case 
we are trying the man for a crime, and may acquit him. 
In the second case we are trying the Cause in which the 
man admittedly committed the crime. If we are to ex- 
cuse the badness of the crime for the goodness of the 
cause, we naturally want to know rather more about 
the cause. And we shall not be altogether contented if 
at the end (as happens to be my own case) we come 
honestly to the conclusion that the cause was rather 
worse than the crime. I have my doubts, to start with, 
whether such a man is really doing evil that good 
may come. But it does make a slight difference, if I 
happen to believe that he is doing evil that evil may 

For the journalists whom I have found supporting 
Mr. Churchill's thesis are quite brazen and cynical in 
maintaining the theory that the end justifies the means. 
They defend Marlborough's treacherous desertion of 
James II, wholly and solely upon the ground that it 
was necessary for the glorious invasion of William III. 
Without disputing with the journalists a morality 
which they quite falsely attributed to the Jesuits, we 


may at least say that in that case we are entitled to 
inquire exactly how glorious was the invasion of Wil- 
liam III? Was William of Orange really so supernat- 
ural and beautiful a blessing, such a pearl of great price, 
such an ideal object of human desire, that a man might 
practise any degree of deception or desertion, if only he 
might see in England, like a beatific vision, the face 
of that divine Dutchman? Was the successful invasion 
and conquest of England by a Dutch army an object 
so purely and perfectly patriotic that a great English 
General was justified in committing mutiny and treason 
and refusing to lead his own country's army to defend 
his own country? The fact is that there is no defence of 
Marlborough in this matter, upon the normal notions 
about a patriot, a soldier, or a gentleman. The fact can 
be established b$ a very simple test. Those who have 
condemned Marlborough most strongly have been men 
of normal moral feeling; but men actually inheriting 
and representing the Whig or Protestant Settlement, 
for the sake of which he is supposed to have sold his 

This is what makes it so monstrously amusing that 
the desperate defence of Marlborough now involves a 
violent and belated attack on Macaulay. Well, to us 
who believe in the older English tradition, it is no news 
that Macaulay talked nonsense. But it siems to be quite 


forgotten that he talked nonsense entirely on the same 
side as the apologists of Marlborough. He might well 
have thought that nothing could be too good or bad to 
glorify the Glorious Revolution. He was probably the 
only sane human being who ever lived who really did 
regard William of Orange as an ideal object and a pearl 
of great price. If Marlborough had really been only a 
hero of the Glorious Revolution, I cannot imagine what 
motive Macaulay could have had for describing him as 
anything but heroic. Mr. Churchill seems to suggest 
that Macaulay got all his bias against Marlborough by 
meekly and credulously swallowing everything to be 
found in Jacobite pamphlets. A rather extraordinary 
suggestion to anybody who happens to have read 
Macaulay, and remembers how he speaks about those 
very same Jacobite pamphlets. He blackens them as 
baseless slanders against William of Orange; why 
should he not have equally disregarded their slanders 
against Marlborough? Marlborough was everything 
that Macaulay admired: a great Whig, a great maker 
of the Revolution, a vety great English soldier; and 
Macaulay's patriotism was not small. It seems to me 
staringly self-evident that Macaulay is rather a reluctant 
witness, if anything, against the great warrior of the 
Whigs. But Macaulay also had a moral sense; an old 
Victorian piece of furniture which is now not much in 


fashion. Anyhow, I confess there is at least one other 
authority who counts with me much more than Macau- 
lay. He is even more of an example of an independent 
witness testifying, if anything, against his own side. If 
we allow anyone to criticize the Duke of Marlborough, 
it might well be the Duke of Wellington. Nobody says 
Wellington was a romantic Jacobite or a sentimental 
Fenian regretting the victory of the Boyne. But Wel- 
lington did regret the treason of Marlborough; and 
regret is a very mild term. He said he could not con- 
ceive any soldier doing such a thing; and his word will 
not be easy to erase. 

But the question still remains if treason was done 
that truth might triumph, was it really the truth that 
triumphed? Was Truth the outstanding quality of that 
long agitation against the last Stuarts which began with 
the statements of the Rev. Titus Oates and ended with 
the Story of the Warming-Pan? Was truth, or even 
justice, or, for that matter, even liberty, particularly 
characteristic of the system and the dynasty which the 
Revolution substituted for the Stuarts: the progress 
whose practical stages in history bear the names of 
Glencoe and Limerick and Wood's Halfpence and the 
South Sea Bubble? I never could see, for the life of me, 
that there was any particular improvement of any kind, 
in the matter of freedom and enlightenment, merely 


following on the usurpation by William of Orange. The 
last Stuarts were much more in favour of freedom and 
enlightenment; of religious toleration; of international 
peace; of culture and comprehension o the arts. I admit 
that a new sort of freedom and enlightenment, for good 
or evil, came long afterwards from the French Revolu- 
tion. But there is not a scrap of logical link between the 
French Revolution and the Glorious Revolution. The 
latter, as Macaulay truly said, was glorious only for 
William of Orange; and its spirit now remains only in 
a few Orangemen. With all respect to them, they do 
not exactly represent the widest philosophy of modern 


XIX On the Crank and the Cad 

WE should naturally think that vulgarity and eccen- 
tricity were at opposite extremes; that whatever the 
vulgarian might do, he would scorn doing anything ec- 
centric; and that whatever the eccentric might do, he 
would korn doing anything vulgar. When o the en- 
ergetic Mr. Bundleton-Brown, who has just bought the 
shooting from the impecunious Duke, it is first faintly 
whispered that he is "rather common," it is certainly 
meant that there are rather too many of him; even by 
those who know only a few, and wish there were fewer 
still. But when of Mr. Gurley Wow, the enthusiast 
who, so far from shooting birds, stands still for days 
that they may comfortably nest in his hair, when of him 
it is said that he is "rather eccentric," it serves at least 
to clear his reputation of the charge of commonness, of 
dull conventionality, of snobbish acceptation of a uni- 
form suburban etiquette, and all such things. By being 
a lunatic, he has at least purged himself of the foul stain 
of being a regular guy. And we should naturally sup- 
pose that the regular guy would be equally satisfied 
with the thought that he was not a lunatic. And yet 


these two extremes do in fact meet. 

They meet in the modern thing called journalism, or 
the Press, and the cause of the conjunction of contrari- 
ness is curious and amusing. It arises out of the com- 
bination of two different things: the newspaper looking 
for customers and the newspaper looking for copy. For 
the purpose of circulation, it is all to the interest of 
the newspaper that Mr. Bundleton-Brown should be 
very common indeed. That is, that there should be a 
great many of him, and that they should be all approxi- 
mately alike; that they should all have the same social 
habits, including the habit of reading the newspaper. 
It is desirable that they should be regular in their habits, 
and even in their virtues; as, for example, that Mr. 
Bundleton-Brown should pay for the newspaper, and 
not think it funny to snatch it off the newspaper stall 
and rush in triumph down the street, leaping Hke a 
young goat and emitting shrill cries of joy. Mr. 
Bundleton-Brown is expected to show business enter- 
prise, but not to be enterprising in any direct romantic 
fashion like that. If he shows enough business enter- 
prise, of the sort that is entirely unromantic, he may at 
last be rewarded by buying wholesale instead of retail. 
He who once stopped humbly to "buy a newspaper," 
with no intention save that of being a newspaper- 
reader, may some day "buy a newspaper," just as he 


buys the shooting, in the sense of becoming a news- 
paper proprietor. In that position he may discover that 
there is, after all, another side to the newspaper. It Is 
not enough that an endless procession of Bundleton- 
Browns should pass perpetually in front o the news- 
stall, as they pass through the booking-office or by the 
ticket collector. There are other and more threatening 
necessities. There are other dark and menacing problems 
which, neglected perhaps hitherto, and lightly tossed 
aside in the first conception of a great capitalist design, 
nevertheless return and crowd upon the mind in the 
supreme hour of successful purchase and ownership. 

After all, he must put something in the paper. How- 
ever well trained and well behaved be the Bundleton- 
Browns as a class, however smoothly they are accus- 
tomed to performing the same social functions every- 
day, however automatic it has become for them to buy 
a paper just as they eat a breakfast or catch a train 
still, even in them there would be a faint stir, as of half- 
awakened minds moving about in worlds not realized, 
if they opened the daily paper and found nothing but 
completely blank pages. It is not too much to say that 
they would vaguely miss something; something, they 
knew not what, that had been part of what the biolo- 
gists would call their lives. Now when it comes to filling 
up the pages of a paper, the news about the eccentric 


Is much better than the news about the regular guy. 
The man who has birds' nests in his hair is a much 
better feature for a sheet meant to produce a certain 
shallow distraction of mind than the worthy patron of 
the paper who begins shooting at the right season, or 
reads the newspaper at the right hour. Mr. Bundleton- 
Brown may live entirely by the commandment to do 
whatever is done by Mr. Jumbleton-Jones. But he does 
not want to read about Mr. Jumbleton-Jones, and how 
he does everything that is done by Mr. Bundleton- 
Brown. If he must read, since he can read, since he is a 
free modern citizen and has been compulsorily taught 
to read, he would rather read about something a little 
odd or out of the way. Thus does Mr. Gurley Wow, 
his eccentric rival, come back into his kingdom; his wild 
kingdom of the birds. He and his birds, and the wild 
hair and whiskers to which they cling, may fill a whole 
Illustrated page in a paper, while there is only a curt 
sentence in the fashionable news to show that Mr. 
Bundleton-Brown has bought the shooting from the 
Duke. Thus, the paper tends more and more to be a 
record of rare and unrepresentative things, or even of 
cracked and crazy things. But it is written about extraor- 
dinary people, because it is written for ordinary people. 
It is no guide to the opinion of the public on any serious 
matter; it is at the most a guide to the newspaper pro- 


prietor's opinion; or to his desire to conceal the fact 
that he has not got an opinion; or to his equally solid 
conviction (more sincere and, in some cases, even pos- 
sibly true) that the public has not got an opinion either. 
It is merely a witness to the fact that mankind wants to 
be amused and that mankind is still amused, as much 
as ever it was, with dwarfs and giants, bearded women, 
and twelve-toed men. 

To a certain extent this was equally true of the rec- 
ords of the remote past; and a well-equipped modern 
newspaper is not much behind a barbaric chronicle or 
saga of the Dark Ages. They also delighted to record 
that a child had been born with the head of an elephant, 
as we to record that a prize Eugenic child is destined to 
grow up as a Superman. They rejoiced to tell tales of 
some remote Turkish Sultan who had cut off the noses 
of all his subjects, just as our newspapers seriously 
record proposals for general mutilation in the name of 
morality and science. But there is one little difficulty 
about it: that, in the ages of faith, the story-tellers were 
not moralists. They recorded the acts of mad kings or 
dubious magicians, but they never said they approved 
of them any more than the manager of a travelling show 
expresses a moral conviction that all women ought to 
have beards. The curiosities were exhibited because they 
were curious. There was never a panic spread in the 


fair to the effect that the curiosity was contagious. It was 
never the fashion for women to grow hair on their 
faces, as it can be the fashion for them to shave it off 
their heads. The gentleman with twelve toes was not 
treated as a Superman, whose feet were more beautiful 
upon the mountains than those of other bearers of good 
news; he was not regarded as a new and promising 
evolutionary growth or expanding organism. The curse 
of the present conjunction between the commonplace 
spirit in the public and the eccentric nature of the news 
and notions offered them in the newspaper is that the 
wildest things are suggested with a savour of serious 
prophecy; and, above all, that the wildest things are 
preached to the tamest people. And they are so accus- 
tomed to taking what is given them, and so unaccus- 
tomed to tasting what is good, that there is a real danger 
of such nonsense acting like a stimulant on an empty 
stomach. There is so much that is nonsensical in the 
daily news-sheet, and so little that is new in the daily 
life, that there may be a dangerous breach between the 
unreal and the real. It is not the most commonly dis- 
cussed of the problems of the Press; but it is one of the 
most vital, or deadly. 

XX On Dreams 

THE subject of Dreams has always been admittedly 
allied to mysticism, and not far from superstition. The 
interpretation of dreams was a well-known function of 
many ancient prophets, and only gradually died away 
under what was considered the march of enlightenment. 
Unfortunately, in this as in many things, the march of 
enlightenment proceeded to march very straight into 
all the ancient darkness and mystery. The man who 
talked about his dreams, who had become rather a bore 
at breakfast, suddenly found that he had the opportu- 
nity of being a broader, brainier, and more universal 
and philosophical bore in the lecture-room or on the 
platform of scientific and religious debate. Psycho- 
analysis resurrected the archaic interpreter of dreams, 
just as Psychical Research resurrected the ancient nec- 
romancer or professional raiser of ghosts. We often read 
about the modern world as mocking the superstitions 
of the past, even of the immediate past; but almost the 
exact opposite is the truth. A number of things are 
taken seriously now that would only have been mocked 
a hundred years ago; or, in some cases, even two hun- 


dred years ago. Voltaire would not believe the scientists 
even when they found the fossil of a fish; we can only 
imagine what he would have said if a scientist like Sir 
Oliver Lodge had offered to introduce him to the phan- 
tom of a man. The whole modern movement, from 
Hume to Huxley, was supposed to have awakened men 
out of every sort of dream, and even classed their spir- 
itual visions and revelations with their dreams. I know 
not what the men of that movement would have 
thought if they had found a more modern generation 
actually believing in visions and revelations merely be- 
cause they had been communicated in dreams. 

Yet this is the general impression produced by a 
Symposium on Dreams, and containing contributions 
by many brilliant and distinguished men, especially of 
the most modern sort. They do not, indeed, state their 
credulity in the form of a creed; but a great deal of mod- 
ern liberality merely consists of leaving out the creed 
and keeping the credulity. The things that some of 
them say, both in this symposium and elsewhere, are 
very arresting and extraordinary. Mr. Algernon Black- 
wood, indeed, is an acknowledged and even authorita- 
tive student of mysticism; and, perhaps for that very 
reason, his story is the most moderate and his com- 
ments the most cautious. He definitely attests to a case 
of a thing which he had lost, he knew not where, and 


how its exact hiding-place was revealed to him in a 
dream and afterwards verified as a fact. But he takes it 
lightly and almost humorously, as is the way of expe- 
rienced mystics, and is willing to refer it to some ordi- 
nary operation of the subconsciousness. But Miss Storm 
Jameson records a case in which she was completely 
puzzled by a practical problem in daily life, from which 
she thought she had explored every possible avenue of 
escape; after which she dreamed an apparently irrele- 
vant, but beautiful and consoling dream,- full of strange 
gardens and wonderful white flowers, to awaken in the 
morning with an entirely new and quite practical 
expedient blazing clearly in her mind. She does not 
seem to have the least doubt that it was the one and 
only right solution, and that some unknown beneficence 
had revealed it to her in her sleep. I am not attempting 
to value these experiences in relation to any theory: I 
am merely remarking the way in which the most mod- 
ern people can accept the direction of dreams, and treat 
such a mystical thing entirely as a practical thing. 

The most remarkable statement is that of Mr. 
C. R. W. Nevinson, the vigorous artist and critic. He 
begins with a rigid denial of all belief in the supernat- 
ural, and especially in a life after death. I do not quite 
understand what he means by saying: "Having been 
near death more often than many mortals, I have reason 


to believe it is one long eternal sleep." I do not see what 
having been near death can possibly have to do with 
it, one way or the other. There is no parallel to the dif- 
ference between death and life; but even touching the 
differences of living men, the argument would be a 
fallacy. There may be many a millionaire who, on look- 
ing back at his most brilliant financial triumphs and 
expedients, may be conscious that on several occasions 
he was very near to Dartmoor. But I should not agree 
that the millionaire, reflecting comfortably at the Carl- 
Ritz, was necessarily an authority on the plan and inside 
arrangements of Dartmoor, or qualified to advise con- 
victs on how to escape from Dartmoor. And, as I say, 
there is no comparison between the secrets of Dartmoor 
and the secrets of death. I think he would see the fal- 
lacy at once, if it were used on the other side; if an 
Army chaplain were to say that he now knew all about 
Purgatory and Paradise because a shell missed him by 
an inch or the doctors despaired of him in hospital. But 
his preliminary statement of complete scepticism is 
none the less valuable in relation to what follows. Even 
more valuable is his realization of a historical fact that is 
very rarely realized. tc My main sympathy with Chris- 
tianity is that originally it cleared the dark minds of 
Greece and Rome of omens, portents, and all the terrors 
of superstition." 


Then he goes on to state, in the most calm and lucid 
and interesting manner, that a number o his own pic- 
tures, were quite certainly prophetic, and that this 
prophetic power had generally come to him in dreams. 
He even says that he has painted and exhibited pictures 
which he himself dislikes; in obedience to the direction 
of dreams, and because he finds they have some super- 
human and supernormal quality, to attract or repel, 
which can only come out of the power which directs 
his dreams. This, it will be noted, really goes a good 
way beyond what has been heard from the mystics who 
are regarded as most mystical, or even regarded as most 
mad. William Blake drew images from" what would be 
called invisible models, but he never said he disliked 
drawing them or that he disliked the drawings when 
they were done. He wrote and published poems of 
which he said that "the authors are in Eternity," but he 
never felt as if the authors were bad authors, or the 
poems bad poems. I use the word "bad," in this case, 
of course, in the merely popular sense of not pleasing 
the normal taste, not merely of the public, but even of 
the poet or the painter. The state of things described by 
this stern sceptic is, in fact, very much more extraor- 
dinary than any state of things that has generally been 
described by religious enthusiasts or ecstatic believers. 
He, much more than they, may be described as believ- 



ing without understanding; or, perhaps, as obeying 
without believing. He is driven, indeed, to what is per- 
haps only a verbal inconsistency, for he begins by an- 
nouncing that he definitely disbelieves in the super- 
natural, and ends by saying that he believes in 
something "which is either subconscious or supernat- 
ural"; passing from the negative at least to the agnostic 
view. But I fully realize that words must be hard to 
manage in describing so strange and even extreme a 
state of transcendentalism. Certainly, nobody could say 
it is a state of dull and stolid materialism. There seems 
to me, if anything, rather more danger that a man 
obeying the voice of a nameless destiny, which speaks 
only in dreams, may also need to be delivered, like the 
Greeks and Romans, from "omens, portents, and all the 
terrors of superstition." 

XXI On the Fossil of a Fanatic 

IN dealing with such things as Prohibition, I have some- 
times had occasion to mention Puritanism. Disputes 
have arisen about this word, and about how far it is 
fair to associate it at least with a rnild shade of pessi- 
mism. Sporadic attempts are made to modify this strong 
popular impression; and I saw an article the other day 
which largely turned upon a statement that Calvin was 
allowed to play with darts. As I have not the least desire 
to be unfair to Puritans, I think I should like to sum 
up what seems to me the substantial historical truth of 
the matter; and the real point of the whole story. So far 
as I am concerned, the point is not so much against 
Calvin as against Calvinism; and not so much even 
against Calvinism as against that much less logical 
Modernism, which has taught everybody in our time 
that religious error does not matter. It matters very much 
in two ways; and Puritanism is a striking historical 
example of both. First, something that might well seem 
to sensible people to be only a fine shade of thought, 
merely theoretical and theological, does in fact change 
the mind. It produces a mood which does darken the 


world; or some particular part o the world. About the 
degree of the darkness or the density o the cloud, we 
may well differ; but it is a matter of common sense to 
see where the cloud did or does rest. Nobody will dare 
to maintain that the Scottish Sabbath has not in fact 
been more strict than the English Sunday, let alone the 
Continental Sunday. Everyone knows that it was the 
Puritans who objected to Archbishop Laud's famous 
publication on the subject; everyone knows that they 
objected to his Book of Sports because it was a book of 
sports; everyone knows that they thought the sports 
too sportive. Attempts to explain away solid outstanding 
historical facts of this kind are altogether fanciful. But 
it does not follow that every founder of every sect in- 
volved attached supreme importance to this particular 
point; some of them did; some of them did not. The 
whole movement grew gradually from various roots, 
but this is what it grew to be. A man alive in the mid- 
dle of the Renaissance, speculating about a system of 
Presbyters which he had not yet begun to found, amid 
a thousand others speculating about a thousand other 
things, would not, of course, become instantly identical 
with a Presbyterian minister of modern times. He 
would not begin on the spot to grow the black top hat 
and bushy whiskers of a Scottish elder or precentor in 
one of Sir James Barrie's plays or stories. Nemo repents 


fit turpissimus. Which it would doubtless be very un- 
fair to translate as "No one suddenly becomes a pre- 

But there is another historical process involved. It is 
much more curious; and it has been much more cu- 
riously neglected. One special form of the harm done 
by the extreme sects in the seventeenth century was 
this: that they really died young, and that what has 
infected our culture since has not been their life, or 
even their death, but rather their decay. In most cases 
the Puritans lost their religion and retained their mo- 
rality; a deplorable state of things for anybody. If the 
special narrow theologies had not perished rapidly as 
they did, the atmospheric moral mood would not have 
lingered on exactly in the way it did. But, above all, 
it permitted of a process which seems to me one of the 
strangest and most interesting in human history; but 
which does not seem as yet to have been noticed by 
historians. It is rather like the geological process of the 
formation of a fossil. Everyone knows that a fossil fish 
is not a fish; nor a fossil bird a bird. I do not mean 
merely in the obvious sense: that we should be sur- 
prised, nay annoyed, in a restaurant, if we asked for a 
fish and they gave us a stone. I mean that a fossil is a 
form, in which remains no actual fragment of a fish. It 
is a hollow mould or image of a fish, which is very 


gradually filled up by the infiltration of something else, 
after the actual fish has decayed. Thus we find the gen- 
eral outline of these stony and very literal faiths filled 
up by something else when the old fanaticism has de- 
cayed. There are two great modern examples of that 
creepy and uncanny historical transmutation. One is 
what we call Prohibition and the other is what we call 

The point is perhaps clearest in the case of Prohibi- 
tion. The old original Puritans were not Prohibitionists. 
Oliver Cromwell was a brewer; but he was not inspired 
or intoxicated by beer, nor (like the teetotallers) in- 
spired and intoxicated by the absence of beer. Whatever 
his faults, he did most certainly have a real religion, in 
the sense of a creed. But it was a sombre creed, one 
which had been made intentionally more stern and 
ruthless than the other creeds; and this created a new 
mood and moral atmosphere, which ultimately spread 
all over the great plains of Puritan America. Now the 
point is this: that as the creed crumbled slowly as a 
creed, its place was taken by something vaguer but of 
the same general spirit. The severe theological credo 
was replaced by a severe social veto. You can put it 
another way if you like, and say that America tolerated 
Prohibition, not because America was Puritan, but be- 
cause America had been Puritan. The idea of morality 


that came to prevail till lately at least, was in every 
sense a survival of Puritanism, even if it was also in a 
sense a substitute for Puritanism. That is the essential 
history of that curious episode; the teetotal ethic of 
modern times. Prohibition was not a part of the origin 
of Puritanism; none the less, Prohibition was a thing of 
Puritan origin. 

The same is true of the religious fanaticism that 
filled Germany in the Thirty Years' War; as compared 
with the national or tribal fanaticism that now fills 
Germany after the Great War. The old fanatics who 
followed Gustavus Adolphus and William of Orange 
were not ethnologists or evolutionists. They did not 
imagine that they belonged to a Nordic race; they most 
certainly did not imagine .that they or theirs had ever 
been bothered with a swastika. They saluted the cross 
or they smashed the cross, but it had not occurred to 
them to tap the four ends of it so as to turn it into a 
fragment of Chinese or Red Indian decoration. They 
were thinking about their own strictly religious scruples 
and schisms. They were really fighting fiercely and 
savagely for points of doctrine; and I should be the last 
to blame them for it. But those doctrines did not last; 
they were the very doctrines that have now long been 
dissolving in the acids of German scepticism; in the 
laboratories of the Prussian professors. And the more 


they evaporated and left a void, the more the void was 
filled up with new and boiling elements; with tribal- 
ism, with militarism, with imperialism and (in short) 
with that very narrow type of patriotism that we call 

Most of us would agree that this kind of patriotism 
is a considerable peril to every other kind of patriotism. 
That is the whole evil of the ethnological type of loy- 
alty. Settled States can respect themselves, and also 
respect each other; because they can claim the right to 
defend their own frontiers and yet not deny their duty 
to recognize other people's frontiers. But the racial spirit 
is a restless spirit; it does not go by frontiers but by the 
wandering of the blood. It is not so much as if France 
were at war with Spain; but rather as if the Gipsies were 
more or less at war with everybody. You can have a 
League of Nations; but you could hardly have a League 
of Tribes. When the Tribe is on the march, it is apt to 
forget leagues not to mention frontiers. But my im- 
mediate interest in this flood of tribalism is that it has 
since poured into the empty hollows left by the slow 
drying up of the great Deluge of the Thirty Years' War, 
and that all this new and naked nationalism has come 
to many modern men as a substitute for their dead re- 

XXII On Blake and his Critics 

THE new book on Blake by Mr. Middleton Murry is 
one with so many aspects and attractive suggestions 
that I do not apologize for dealing with it here; though 
I have dealt with it elsewhere, under conditions of 
unavoidable brevity. As Mr. Middleton Murry is much 
interested in the present and the future, his book might 
well be called, in Blake's own phrase, a Prophetical 
Book. This does not mean that I necessarily believe in 
the prophecies of Mr. Murry; or, for that matter, in the 
prophecies of Blake. But it does mean that we have to 
deal with mystical ideas which are, in the right sense, 
modern ideas. It must always be difficult to analyse 
the doubtful or double sense in which Blake used cer- 
tain religious terms. But there is no doubt that Blake 
did say that his books were inspired books. And there 
is no doubt that some of us would be content to say 
that they are inspiring books. 

In this larger sense, if in a lesser degree, this book on 
Blake is an inspiring book; but especially in the sense 
of being a challenging book; and occasionally an annoy- 
ing book. It is written with sincerity, and even a sort 


o simplicity; and the most curious thing about it is the 
direct way in which the author assumes that he has to 
deal with the Prophetical Books; almost as i Blake had 
never written any other books. He admits that the 
Prophetical Books are "difficult" as compared with the 
other books. What he does not seem to me to admit 
sufficiently, or at least to emphasize sufficiently, is the 
ordinary fact, o criticism or literature, that, as compared 
with the other books, the Prophetical Books are tol- 
erably bad books. It is not merely that they are difficult 
to understand. There are turns and sequences in Blake's 
strongest lyrics that are decidedly difficult to under- 
stand. But the ordinary cultivated critic does know that 
the lyric is strong; whereas he might be 'tempted to 
think that the Prophetical Book is weak. The one is a 
real rush of words, like the flowering of a tree, or the 
flight of a flock of wild geese or swallows. The other, 
when all is allowed, does often seem to be a wilderness 
of words. In fact, the finest imaginative work of Blake 
may be found in some of those compressed couplets, 
almost crushed together in their creative pressure. No- 
body who really understands Imagination, or how near 
it seems to Inspiration, would hesitate to give pages of 
the rambling epics about Albion and Urizen, for four 
lines like these, which I quote from memory and prob- 
ably wrong: 


As the chimney-sweeper's sigh 
Every blackened church appals; 
Or the slaughtered soldier's cry- 
Runs in blood down palace walls. 

Those are two lightning-flashes revealing two sep- 
arate Visions of Judgment. Notice the earthquake el- 
lipsis, by which the soot of the chimney-sweep is trans- 
ferred to the church; as if it were blasted and blackened 
by the black hands of a giant. And note that the second 
picture is a burning transparency of some portent upon 
Potsdam or Versailles, as memorable as the Feast of 
Belshazzar. It seems to me that, after all, Blake was 
most striking in these blinding strokes. It may be worth 
while to find out what he meant in the epic about 
America, which was not about America; or the great 
work about Milton, which had next to nothing to do 
with Milton. But we do not need to ask what he meant 
by the blackened church or the blood on the palace wall. 

He meant exactly what he said: and he said exactly 
what he meant; and there is here perhaps a difference 
of literary test. For I am one of those who think that 
the poet stands separate and supreme among men, in 
that simple fact that the poet can say exactly what he 
means, and that most men cannot. I think, in other 
words, that the other name of Poet is Pontifex; or the 


Builder of the Bridge. And i there is not a real bridge 
between his brain and ours, it is useless to argue about 
whether it has broken down at our end or at his. He 
has not got the communication. It seems to me that 
Blake did get the communication in his Poetical Books, 
and did not get it in his Prophetical Books. I will take 
another example, also from memory. Mr. Middleton 
Murry describes with great insight and sympathy how 
Blake, though recoiling from most contemporary reli- 
gion, in the sense of theology, yet recoiled with equal 
violence from the Rationalism of the Deists and all that 
is now called Scientific Education. This, Mr. Murry 
explains to us, is described in one of the Prophetical 
Books in a passage in which, after various vast and un- 
recognizable giants have seized and grasped various 
things, one of them grasps the book; and his name is 
apparently Newton; not a common name among giants. 
This does undoubtedly mean what Mr. W. B. Yeats 
(a very acute and sensitive student of Blake) himself 
expressed with more wit and lucidity in one of his 
plays: "I tell you that Sin and Death came into the 
world when Newton ate the apple. Oh, I know he 
only saw it falling, but the principle is the same." Blake 
did most heartily believe that the new scientific scepti- 
cism was utterly hollow and hopeless. Whether he was 
right or not will still be disputed; which means that 


there are still any number o disputants on Blake's side. 
But the point is that the reference in the Prophetical 
Book is cloudy and confusing; even the image is cloudy 
and confusing. Here are four lines that Blake wrote to 
exactly the same effect, when his style was really effec- 

Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau, 
Mock on, mock on; 'tis all in vain: 
You throw the sand against the wind 
And the wind blows it back again. 

That is Poetry; that is a clear and direct image which 
does convey perfectly what is meant; the futility of the 
fight of what is dull and heavy against what is full of 
light and living energy. It is, in fact, a full and even 
final example of the Image; and, therefore, of the func- 
tion of Imagination. 

Now the curious thing is that Mr. Middleton Murry 
begins his own book with a most beautiful and illu- 
minating passage about this point of Imagination and 
the Image. He is describing the indescribable, and he 
very nearly does it. He does suggest that real imagina- 
tion gives to an object a sort of ecstatic separation and 
sanctity; a greater reality than that of what we call the 
real world. It puzzles me a little that a man who sees 
this so clearly does not see it more clearly in the real 


poems of Blake than in the laborious metaphysical 
notebooks of Blake. For he does not disguise the in- 
tellectual disadvantages of the latter. He admits that 
the Prophet Blake was sometimes not only bewildering, 
but also bewildered. He has a theory that the whole 
continuity of the Prophetical Books broke down over 
the prophet having a quarrel with his wife; or rather, 
in a sense (oddly enough) , broke down on his having 
a partial reconciliation with his wife. In short, it broke 
down over the prophet discovering that he was not only 
a prophet, but also a man, and a miserable sinner. The 
truth is, I take it, that Blake was like other men and 
miserable sinners in certain respects; including that of 
starting out in youth with simple and sweeping gen- 
eralizations; which he thought obviously true, because 
they are obviously simple. It takes other men besides 
prophets some little time to discover that man and 
marriage and other realities are not obviously simple. It 
is easy to start out crying, with the voice of a trumpet: 
"Man has no body apart from his soul." But is the man 
quite certain that he knows what he means? Or if he 
does know, is it as true as he thinks it is? In a sense 
more practical than Blake meant, he did indeed pass 
from Songs of Innocence to Songs of Experience. But 
even on Mr. Middleton Murry's own showing, it does 


seem to me that a good many o the Prophetical Books 
were really Songs o Innocence. And I confess that I 
prefer the Songs of Innocence when they were really 

XXIII On the Instability of the State 

THE foreign news which comes to us by the newest and 
most scientific methods o communication is much more 
confusing than it was when it was mere gossip. Good 
communications corrupt good manners. At any rate, 
they corrupt good methods;^ and certainly they corrupt 
good messages. The different statements, for instance, 
that have been made about the policy of Hitler might 
almost lead the superstitious to suppose that there are 
two Hitlers; as some legend once suggested that there 
were two Neros. Without deciding between the con- 
trasted conceptions, or going at the moment into the 
question of the value of either of them, it may be worth 
remarking that one contradiction of this kind has been 
concerned with this pivotal problem of The Family. 
On the one side, it would really seem that the German 
Dictator is concerned to restore the sane and solid 
status of The Family. He has insisted, though some- 
times in rather florid and foolish language, that a woman 
may fulfil herself rightly in the personal relation; and 
that she does not find her only freedom in the financial 
or official relation. He has said a word for large families; 


and for the resumption of the patriarchal dignity that 
has figured with such distinction from the beginning 
of history. At the same time, we see statements in the 
newspapers about schemes for supporting all the fads 
that have recently attacked the family. We read of all 
the stale theories of Eugenics; the talk of compulsory 
action to keep the breed in a certain state of bestial ex- 
cellence; of nosing out every secret of sex or origin, so 
that nobody may survive who is not Nordic; of setting 
a hundred quack doctors to preserve an imaginary race 
in its imaginary purity. Now Eugenics of that sort is, 
always has been, and always must be, merely a violent 
assault on The Family. It is, by definition, the taking 
away from The Family of the decisions that ought to 
belong to The Family. When those decisions are made 
in the domestic and individual way, in which they 
should be made, nobody in his senses ever dreams of 
describing the decision as Eugenics. The private persons 
involved do not call the issue of their own private affairs 
Eugenics; they call it love, or childbirth, or childless- 
ness, or whatever they choose. The whole point of these 
pseudo-scientific theories always was that they were to 
be applied wholesale, by some more sweeping and gen- 
eralizing power than the individual husband or wife or 
household. The way in which the newspaper reports re- 
fer to them, in the case of the New Germany, is not 


reassuring. But then, on the other hand, the newspaper 
reports may be lies. Or again, the other and contrary 
newspaper reports may be lies. I shall here go no fur- 
ther than recording that they cannot both of them be 

But there is one point about this particular problem 
of The Family which connects itself, in another way, 
with the present revolutions and counter-revolutions of 
Europe. There are certain sayings which for the last 
hundred years or so have not been considered quite 
respectable, because they were religious; or perhaps 
connected with the sort of religion that was not quite 
respectable. One of those statements is this: "The Fam- 
ily comes first; it comes before the State; its authority 
and necessity are anterior to those of the State." This 
always sounded perfectly horrid to rows and rows of 
earnest young people, learning statistics for Fabian So- 
cialism at the London School of Economics. To that 
type, to that generation, the State was everything; that 
great official machine, which managed the traffic and 
took over the telephone system, was the very cosmos in 
which these people lived. For them, The Family was a 
stuffy thing somewhere in the suburbs which only ex- 
isted to be the subject of Problem Plays and Problem 
Novels. The only question about it was whether its 
gloom should be brightened up by suicide; or its self- 


ishness exalted by self-indulgence. But the whole o 
this view, though it is a view very nearly universal in 
the big modern towns, only exists because the big mod- 
ern town is an entirely artificial society. Those inside it 
know no more about the normal life of humanity than 
the equally select society inside Colney Hatch or inside 
Portland Gaol. In some ways a lunatic asylum or a con- 
vict settlement are much better organized, are certainly 
much more elaborately organized, than the hugger- 
mugger of human beings doing as they like outside. 
But it is the human beings outside who are human; and 
it is their life that is the life of humanity. 

Now the sweeping social revolutions that have swept 
backwards and forwards across Europe of late, the 
stroke of the Bolshevists, the counter-stroke of the Fas- 
cists, the imitation of it in Hitlerite Germany, the re- 
covery of the secret societies in Spain, the new creation 
in Ireland, all these great governmental changes may 
serve to bring men's minds back to that big funda- 
mental fact which the big cities have fancied to be a 
paradox. The big cities had this notion for a perfectly 
simple reason: that in the modern moment in which 
they lived, and especially in an industrial country like 
ours, the framework of the State did really look stronger 
than the framework of The Family. The modern in- 
dustrial mob was accustomed to the endless and tragic 


trail of broken families; of tenants failing to pay their 
rents; of slums being condemned and their inhabitants 
scattered; of husband or wife wandering in search of 
work or swept apart by separation or divorce. In those 
conditions, The Family seemed the frailest thing in the 
world; and the State the strongest thing in the world. 
But it is not really so. It is not so, when we take the 
life of a man over large areas of time or space. It is not 
so, when we pass from the static nineteenth century to 
the staggering twentieth century. It is not so when we 
pass out of peaceful England to riotous Germany or 
gun-governed America. Over all the world tremendous 
transformations are passing over the State, so that a man 
may go to bed in one State and get up in another. The 
very name of his nation, the very nature of his common 
law, the very definition of his citizenship, the uniform 
and meaning of the policeman at the corner of his 
street, may be totally transformed tomorrow, as in a 
fairy-tale. He cannot really refer the daily domestic 
problems of his life to a State that may be turned 
upside-down every twenty-four hours. He must, in 
fact, fall back on that primal and prehistoric institu- 
tion; the fact that he has a mate and they have a child; 
and the three must get on together somehow, under 
whatever law or lawlessness they are supposed to be 


Take a very influential and creative culture in which 
the family has always been fundamental; take China. Is 
there any earthly sense, at this moment, in telling a 
Chinaman that he must cease to belong to The Family, 
and be content to belong to the State? He may not 
unnaturally ask, "What State?" The Japanese armies 
may advance today, over the land occupied by one of 
five rival Chinese generals yesterday. Tomorrow, both 
of them may have disappeared from practical politics; 
a national reaction may have restored the Son of Heaven 
to his sacred palace in Pekin; or the Russian Commu- 
nists may have swept across China and plotted it out 
under Commissars, that "the State" may start another 
Five-year Plan. It is simply not possible for men to 
regard these vast tempestuous changes, in what the 
Chinese might call the Upper Air, as having the same 
real relation to themselves as the mother that bore them, 
or the child that is born to them. In the break-up of the 
modern world, The Family will stand out stark and 
strong as it did before the beginning of history; the 
only thing that can really remain a loyalty, because it 
is also a liberty. 

XXIV On a Melodrama 

MANY have seen, and many more must have heard of, 
the very amusing performance which was given at the 
Ambassadors Theatre. "The Streets of London" based 
on the idea of acting a melodrama as a burlesque. It is 
true that the old melodrama of Dion Boucicault is not 
turned into an extravagant burlesque; nor indeed, com- 
pared with some, was it ever a very extravagant melo- 
drama. It is almost entirely a matter of certain stage 
conventions which look very stiff to our generation; 
which always looked rather stagey even to the earlier 
generation, only that the earlier generation really rather 
liked the stage to be stagey. It is always necessary to 
remember, and it is very easy to forget, this last little 
point about the changes in human taste. A young man 
of the time and type of Shelley, let us say, wearing a 
loose collar and neckcloth and long flowing hair, cer- 
tainly regarded his grandfather as a very artificial old 
dandy if he was patched and powdered and buttoned 
up with innumerable buttons in the frills and furbelows 
of the eighteenth century. The young man thought his 
own costume was more natural, and the old man 



thought the young man's costume was stark mad. But 
the old man did not think his own costume was nat- 
ural. He thought it was the business of any gentleman's 
costume to be artificial. He did not pretend that his 
hair was naturally white with powder or grew in a 
pigtail, or that frills were sprouting on him like feathers 
on a chicken, or that high red heels had grown out of 
his feet. He simply was not competing with the young 
man at all, in the matter of naturalness. He belonged to 
an age when people thought that dress ought to be 

Dion Boucicault belonged to an age when people 
thought that the stage ought to be stagey. I admit that 
the eighteenth century was in many ways much more 
intelligent than the nineteenth century. Therefore, an 
artificial comedy like The School for Scandal is not so 
easily made absurd as an artificial melodrama like The 
Streets of London. But The School for Scandal is ar- 
tificial, and in some minor matters even absurd; that is, 
unintentionally absurd. There are always some stage 
properties of a period that look a little too stagey at a 
subsequent period. Nevertheless, when all this is al- 
lowed for, it must be admitted that the period of Vic- 
torian melodrama was a pretty ghastly period. The ad- 
mirable setting and acting of The Streets of London 
brings out all that was most pompous and preposterous. 


with a dexterity all the better for not being overdone. 
I appreciated especially the remarkable feat of writing a 
letter on the stage, as I have seen it done in all serious- 
ness in my boyhood; when the squire conveys to his 
lawyer that his estate is to be divided between six dif- 
ferent sons in six totally different ways,* with a curse or 
blessing attached to each, and does it all with one long 
scratching line, followed by a thunderous thump to 
represent the seal or stamp. It was also very pleasing to 
see the hero wandering about with a chair in his hand, 
which he offered to the mendicant from the streets, and 
pushed backwards or forwards according to whether the 
mendicant was or was not included in the conversation 
if it can be called conversation. For some of it, of 
course, was soliloquy; and every now and then I drew 
in, with a deep breath of appreciation, the intensity of 
a hissing aside. 

And yet, though nobody could see it without laugh- 
ing, there are things to be thought about as well as 
things to be laughed at. To recur to the case of the 
Byronic young man and his frilled and powdered grand- 
father, there is one obvious moral to be drawn. The 
Byronic young man knew that his grandfather's dress 
had been more artificial, but there was one thing that 
the Byronic young man certainly did not know. He did 
not know that his own dress, the dress he considered 


natural, would also in thirty years be considered arti- 
ficial. He did not know that his loosened hair would 
look like ridiculous ringlets, that his loosened cloak 
would look like the cloak of a comic conspirator; that 
the next generation or two would think that he was the 
artificial old dandy. Least of all would he think, and 
small blame to him, that he would look artificial to a 
son or grandson who was himself wearing a stove-pipe 
top-hat and mutton-chop whiskers or the preposterous 
trousers of the 'seventies. In other words, while we can 
say that those preposterous trousers were preposterous, 
and much more preposterous than the elegant knee- 
breeches of the powered ancestor, yet there will always 
be an additional absurdity which is relative and not 
positive, and conies solely from things being old- 
fashioned. And while we can say that the preposterous 
Victorian melodramas were preposterous, more prepos- 
terous than the elegant artificiality of The School for 
Scandal, yet some of the absurdity is only antiquity. 
And that absurdity we shall all inherit and exhibit, as 
soon as our own fashions have become antique. 

For instance, it is more likely than not that, in eighty 
years, the little tricks and mannerisms of the new Noel 
Coward sort of comedy will seem utterly false and 
farcical. A new school of humour will produce a bur- 
lesque of the Noel Coward comedy, and every action 


will seem affectation. Whenever the hero or heroine 
lights a cigarette, a howl of joyful derision will go up, 
especially from the old playgoers, who can just remem- 
ber that venerable and antiquated piece of mummery. 
When a servant comes in with a tray of cocktails, it will 
bring down the house with that deafening applause 
that is only given to really old and seasoned and almost 
prehistoric jokes. Almost every posture will look like a 
pose. Almost every word will be in the quaint old dic- 
tion of the earlier twentieth century. In short, Sir Gerald 
du Maurier's way of being natural will be exactly like 
Shelley's way of looking natural; it may remain beau- 
tiful, but it will not remain young. 

There is a queerer thing to be learnt from the stale 
and stagey melodrama. It is this; that if an old thing is 
old enough, and a new thing is new enough, nobody 
will notice if they are almost the same thing. I mean 
that if there has been a long interval of other fashions 
between the first fashion and the last fashion, the dead 
thing can return in a new disguise without ever being 
detected. I have mentioned those rusty devices of melo- 
drama, the soliloquy and the aside. They were used by 
Shakespeare; they were used by Dion Boucicault; they 
were used down to Victorian rimes; and they were used 
because they are useful. It does definitely help, not 
merely the melodramatic trick, but the dramatic truth 


of a scene, that the audience should hear something that 
the stage company do not hear. The result Is that this 
fiction has reappeared in ultra-modern drama, in the 
form of an entirely new psychological and metaphysical 
theory of the theatre. The characters will soliloquize as 
loud as they like, and utter asides that are not said aside. 
The old convention was that, when a man spoke to a 
woman, she was not supposed to notice that he also 
whispered behind his hand to the audience. The new 
convention is that she is to go suddenly stone deaf 
when he says certain things, and miraculously recover 
the power of hearing when he says other things. That is 
something much more melodramatic than a melodrama. 
That is something that could only be described as a 
Miracle Play. I do not object to that; I am very fond of 
Miracle Plays and rather fond of melodramas. But it 
is odd that something that was laughed off the stage 
when it was at least barely possible, should return to the 
stage in triumph in the form of a stark, staring impos- 
sibility. It looks as if we should all have to go back to 
Miracle Plays and possibly to miracles. 

XXV On the One-Party System 

THERE are certain notions for which I have long argued, 
incompetently but industriously, in many places and 
for many years, seeking to make them prevail. Now 
nearly all of them are enjoying a triumph; and I do not 
like their triumph. This does not mean, the refined 
reader will be grieved to hear, that I have changed my 
mind about them; or that I feel even the faintest doubt 
that they are true. It only means that I fear that the 
world will see more of the triumph than of the truth. 
While they were hardly ever expressed, it was easier 
for them to be explained; when it is assumed that every- 
body understands them, it often only means that there 
are a great many more people to misunderstand them. 
It also means, I cannot but grieve to discover what many 
grey-bearded patriarchs must have discovered before 
me, that there are many more people than I had im- 
agined who can only understand one idea at a time. 

Sometimes the whole point of the real complaint is 
lost. The reaction is the very reverse of the right action. 
For instance, I was once concerned in controversy, along 
with Mr. Belloc and my friends, and did what I could 


to help a campaign against the old Party System, which 
reduced all the possibilities o politics to the rotation of 
the Two Front Benches. We dared to dispute the sacred 
oracle, which declared that every little boy and girl was 
either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative. It is 
not untrue to talk of it as a sacred oracle; for the Vic- 
torians, who are so much misunderstood when they are 
charged with mere solemnity, were really almost alone 
in human history the people who treated their comic 
poets and comic songs as a national religion. Their only 
fault was to be only too earnest in their enthusiasm and 
loyalty to Alice in Wonderland. Anyhow, we pointed 
out that it was an outrage to call a thing free govern- 
ment, when the voters are driven by their labels, into 
one of two narrow lobbies, by the activity (of all de- 
grading images in the world) of Whips. We also 
pointed out other rather curious things that were done 
by Whips, such as the things concerned with Party 
Funds. Well, since those days several things have hap- 
pened which might be regarded as corrections of that 
abuse or escape from that alternative. The Labour Party 
appeared; some time before the Liberal Party disap- 
peared. So that, for a considerable period, there were no 
longer Two Parties but Three Parties. Then the Coali- 
tions, in the time of the War, first began to preach the 
doctrine that there are not Three Parties but One Party. 


I know this sounds theological; but I can't help that. 
Then there was again a sort o Two-party System, be- 
tween Labour and the Tories. And then there was an- 
other great rally to the idea o a united National Gov- 
ernment; a Government which still exists to charm and 
console the world. I cannot say I ever believed very- 
much in that sort o thing myself. It seemed too like 
saying that people whom you dislike separately would 
look nicer together; or that a man who cried out impa- 
tiently "A plague on both your houses!" would be quite 
satisfied to see both the houses side by side, like semi- 
detached villas. But whatever be the truth about that, 
it was at the time certainly regarded as a victory of a 
National System over the old Party System. And now 
the very groups and factions, that are in revolt against 
the National Government, are claiming to be more Na- 
tional than the National Government. Those of the 
Fascist or Hitlerite fashion of thought carry much fur- 
ther the theory of absolute Unification. They are not 
content to uphold the whole State against certain fac- 
tions. They would apparently forbid the factions to up- 
hold themselves against the State; or even apart from 
the State. But whether their view be right or no, or be 
here rightly described or no, it is certainly the whole 
trend of the reaction to override differences and concen- 
trate political power. This is the common element in 


many such forms of social cure. 

And yet it is not really a cure for the disease. It is 
not an attack on the original state of things at alL The 
real objection to the old Party System was not that it 
was a Two-party System; but that it pretended to be a 
Two-party System, when it was really a One-party Sys- 
tem. The objection was not that there was too much 
conflict between the two Front Benches; but that there 
was too much collusion between the two Front Benches. 
It was not that the Government governed too zealously 
or the Opposition opposed too fiercely. It was that the 
Government only governed by arrangement with the 
Opposition and that the Opposition did not oppose at 
all. The unpopularity of Parliament did not arise from 
its being the scene of furious brawls and fanatical fac- 
tion fights, like a medieval Italian city. It arose from its 
being the scene of tedious and trivial debates, like a 
tired debating club. As for the political power of gov- 
ernment, that was already centralized; and a great deal 
too much centralized. It occupied a central position be- 
tween the Prime Minister and the leader of the Oppo- 
sition; not unfrequently in the form of an unknown 
financier who was advising them both. But, anyhow, 
it is not a real contradiction of the old Two-party Sys- 
tem to set up the Totalitarian State. In that sense, the 
Two-party System was the Totalitarian State. That is, 


it monopolized the power of the State; and the power 
of the State was very much stronger even then than 
many innocent Liberals and theoretical democrats imag- 
ined. In other words, our old protest against professional 
politics has in one sense succeeded to a towering point 
of triumph. Many forms of corruption which were con- 
cealed are now confessed. The old tradition or travesty 
of representative government is unpopular. But it is by 
no means certain that it is unpopular for the right rea- 
son; or at least for all of the right reasons. 

I have noticed the same ironical success in other de- 
partments. When I was young, it was very generally 
assumed that any man was a fool who was in possession 
of a faith. It was the fashion to assume that reason is the 
same as rationalism, and that rationalism is the same as 
scepticism; though it has since become obvious that the 
first real act of scepticism is to be doubtful about reason. 
Bullet-headed atheists went about in clubs and public- 
houses, who hit the table and said, "Prove it!" if any- 
body suggested that anybody had a soul. Now there has 
certainly been a very strong and healthy reaction against 
this very dull and dowdy negation. So, for that matter, 
I quite admit that Fascism has been in some ways a 
healthy reaction against the irresponsible treason of cor- 
rupt politics. A great body of living and logical apolo- 
getics has restored theology to its place in the scheme of 


thought. But I cannot deny that there has also been a 
reaction against rationalism, which seems to me to be 
simply a reaction towards irrationalism. There was 
undoubtedly a growth of Fundamentalism in America; 
but it was not a growth of any kind of theology or 
thought about religion. It was simply the artificial pro- 
tection of a prejudice. That American type of revival 
has undoubtedly spread to England, sometimes in a 
very emotional form; but I am not very much consoled 
when an English clergyman describes how the Holy 
Ghost pressed upon him the advisability of buying a 
new dressing-gown. I never wanted a revival of religion 
that abolished reason; any more than I ever wanted a 
reform of government that abolished liberty. I opposed 
what was called rationalism, because I did not admit 
that it was rational; just as I criticized what was called 
democracy, because I did not believe that it was demo- 
cratic. There seems to me some danger that the reaction 
may endanger the just ends as well as the unjust meth- 
ods of reform; and lose the very ideals which the world 
had only touched to desecrate and parody. Hypocrisy 
is the homage that vice pays to virtue; but it is a rather 
dangerous form of homage, if it makes people hate the 
virtue because it has been aped by the vice. If the re- 
action is too simple, and sweeps away all that was really 
good in the nineteenth-century liberty or rationality, 


then it is easy to see what will happen. There will be 
a reaction against the reaction; and that in its turn will 
be as narrow as the reaction. The world will become at 
once monomaniac and mutable, always going mad on 
one notion at a time; and each returning after the tem- 
porary ruin of the other. In short, it will present a vast 
and ghastly parody of the theory of the old Two-party 

XXVI On Books for Pessimists 

I WAS asked the other day, quite suddenly, by a total 
stranger in a barber's shop, what book I should recom- 
mend to a woman in a state of depression. He was quite 
an intelligent stranger, and he managed to make the 
question quite an intelligent and intelligible question. 
I stopped instantly to answer him to the best of my 
ability, as naturally as I should have stopped to give 
him a light for his cigarette. And then, equally sud- 
denly, I found myself confronted with the chasm that 
has opened between the present time and the time I 
most vividly remember. I was forced to ask myself the 
fundamental question: "What is to be said to the young 
pessimist, as distinct from the old pessimist?" I know 
all about the old pessimist. I have seen him wax and 
wane; I have seen him live and die. I know that it 
matters no more today that Swinburne said that the 
fruit of life is dust than that Byron said (much more 
truly) that there's not a joy the world can give like that 
it takes away. There was any amount of pessimism in 
the period in which I began to write. In fact, it was 
largely because of the pessimism that I did begin to 


write. The mere fact that I did begin to write, natu- 
rally, will be used as another argument on the side of 
the pessimist. 

Nevertheless, there is a real issue involved. When I 
was a boy, the world really was divided into optimists 
and pessimists. Neither of the two terms is very philo- 
sophical; and perhaps neither of the two types were 
very real philosophers. But both the types were very- 
real persons. You could not have made Walt Whitman 
a pessimist except by murdering the real Walt Whit- 
man. You could not have turned Thomas Hardy into 
an optimist except by torturing him Into something 
totally different from Thomas Hardy. A real fight was 
fought, a real controversy was engaged, in that Vic- 
torian era which some imagine to have been so stolid 
and unanimous. It was not, on the surface, a religious 
controversy. It prided itself, so to speak, on being an 
entirely irreligious controversy. Whitman was quite as 
much of a Freethinker as Hardy. He had the same facts 
of the material world before him; he had the same dis- 
dain of invoking any immaterial facts to assist him. The 
question was, quite simply: "Is Life worth living?'* 
Even if Life is only what is involved in the word 
Biology. Putting aside immortality, is Life worth liv- 
ing? Putting aside heaven, is earth worth living in? 
Now, when I was young, there were a number of 


writers who would say (in Mr. Asquith's famous 
phrase) that the answer is in the affirmative. They only 
depended slightly and indirectly, or at least in very dif- 
ferent degrees, on any help outside this world. Brown- 
ing was certainly on the side of religious belief, on the 
whole. Meredith was certainly against religious belief, 
on the whole. Stevenson, though he often used phrases 
expressing his sympathy with religion, did, on the 
whole, base his confidence on ideas apart from religion. 
But the point is that, in that older literary atmosphere, 
I should instantly have answered anybody who was de- 
pressed by saying, "Read Stevenson!" or "Read Brown- 
ing!" or "Read Meredith!" And something suddenly 
told me, in the silence of the barber's shop, that it is 
no longer any good to tell pessimistic people to read 
these optimistic writers. Not that there is anything the 
matter with the optimistic writers. What is the matter 
is with the pessimistic people. But what is the matter 
with them? 

It looks as if the old inquirers, from Job to John 
Galsworthy, wanted to be convinced that it was all 
right. It looks to me as if many modern inquirers only 
want to be convinced that it is all wrong. To bring 
them good news is to bring them bad news. For 
instance, suppose we could prove to the interminable 
procession of young Pacifists, who tell us that the Great 


War was an act of horrible cruelty, that it was an act 
of really unavoidable human necessity. I do not mean 
that I propose to prove it now, though I could make out 
a much stronger case for it than they imagine. But 
suppose, merely logically, and for the sake of an ab- 
stract argument, that it could be proved. Would the 
young pessimists be pleased? Would they instantly be- 
come young optimists? Would their refined features 
light up with joy and jollification; and would they be 
instantly reconciled to nationality and normal living? 
I fancy not. I fancy that the modern young man (after 
my alarm in the barber's shop, I avoid the topic of the 
modern young woman) really wants to be a pessimist. 
Now I do not believe that Thomas Hardy really wanted 
to be a pessimist. On the contrary, it seems to me that 
he took every incidental opportunity to avoid being a 
pessimist. Whenever he could describe the glories of the 
glowing southern landscape of England, he described it 
for the sake of its own beauty; he made his hills and 
valleys even more vivid than his men and women. 
There are passages in his novels which I still remember, 
alas! long after I have forgotten the novels. I can re- 
member an impression of sweeping and splendid pas- 
turage, ending with a line of noble and uplifted trees. 
But to the new pessimist it would seem a stretch of 
flat vegetation, ending in some unusually large vege- 


tables. That, it seems to me, is the trouble just now; 
not that so many people have found reasons for dis- 
content, as there are always reasons for discontent, but 
that so ttiany people wish to be discontented. So many 
people are discontented unless they can be discontented. 
Little as I know of the original private problem men- 
tioned in the barber's shop, I know it is not a case of 
this kind. I took it merely as a text for a wandering 
speculation; and the speculation has wandered very far. 
Nevertheless, I think it is one worth pursuing, in the 
hope of finding its logical end, which I do not profess 
to have found here. To put the matter very crudely: in 
the Victorian time even the atheists could be optimists. 
In the present Georgian time, the atheists are resolved 
to be pessimists. A man of genius like George Meredith 
could essentially, if not avowedly, pit Nature against 
God. A man of genius like Mr. Aldous Huxley is 
much more annoyed with Nature than he is with God. 
When I was a boy, I would have told any girl who 
was depressed to read Treasure Island and cheer up; 
therein doubtless underrating the complexity, nay, 
perversity, of girls. But I should have supposed that 
the fighting spirit of Stevenson was a real angle of at- 
tack upon life. What is much more important, Steven- 
son certainly thought it was a real angle of attack upon 
life. If I had been looking for optimists to answer pessi- 


mists like Schopenhauer and Hardy, I could instantly 
have turned to Browning or Whitman. And I will con- 
fess that, while I have myself found what I hold to be 
deeper justification of the glory of living, I still think 
that those jolly pagans of the Victorian time, like Whit- 
man and Meredith, made out a good case for life. What 
I want to know is why those who are now boys, as I 
was then a boy, are so strangely and stubbornly twisted 
towards making a case against life? We also were 
morbid, because we were boys; we also were maniacs, 
because we were boys; we were quite capable of killing 
ourselves, because of the positive beauty of a particular 
woman; we also were quite capable of killing somebody 
else, because of the positive justice of a particular revolu- 
tion. But it was always because of the positive goodness 
of a particular good thing. Why is it that so many peo- 
ple only want to make a case for the negative badness, 
not only of a bad thing, but of all things as being bad? 
The present generation has had more pleasure and 
enjoyment than any previous generation. Is that the 
right way of stating the riddle? Or is that the answer? 

XXVII On the Science of Sociology 

THE great Science of Finger-Prints, discovered by a 
brilliant French criminologist, has produced its principal 
or ultimate effect on the world, which is this: that 
whereas a gentleman was expected to put on gloves to 
dance with a lady, he may now be expected to put on 
gloves in order to strangle her. These changes in eti- 
quette, or fine shades of fashion, may or may not corre- 
spond with an improvement in dancing or a decrease in 
strangling. The great Science of Criminology itself, 
discovered by an enterprising Italian Jew, has produced 
no such simple and practical result. It was conducted 
proudly and somewhat pompously on the following 
principles: that very poor men, and especially poor men 
more or less in the hands of the police, can safely have 
their ears pulled, their skulls measured, their teeth 
counted, tested, or pulled out, so as to establish by 
scientific methods a sort of composite photograph of all 
criminals, which was really a composite photograph of 
all very poor men. Whereas, if the scientific expert pays 
a call on an American millionaire, and says to him 
cheerily, "I have come to measure your ears," or "Per- 


mit me to take a cast o your very simian facial angle," 
there is generally quite a scene before the scientific ex- 
pert, in American language, pays for his excessive 
interest in the ears of others by being thrown out on his 
ear. There was therefore a serious gap in the galleries 
of criminal types which used to be published in the 
magazines of popular science; the defect being the en- 
tire absence of any types of anti-social activity who had 
ever had more than 200 a year. Yet we know, even in 
retrospect, that there were anti-social persons among 
those whose seclusion the scientific expert was thus 
forced to respect. Never once did Mr. Kreuger smile on 
us from that Rogues' Gallery which science spread be- 
fore us; friends and admirers sought in vain for the 
benevolent countenance of Mr. Whitaker Wright 
among the physical types whom an inevitable doom 
drove into conflict with the law: all because of their 
abnormal noses or the peculiar shape of their ears. 

It always seemed to me, therefore, even at the time 
when Lombroso and his lot were taken quite seriously 
by those who discussed the new possibilities of science, 
that the science suffered from an insufficiency of data 
or even an unfair selection of data. The true theory of 
thieves could not be found in these police statistics; be- 
cause the statistical method in question was bound to 
ignore the very heads of the profession. If a man must 


have one ear larger than another in order to make him 
steal sixpence, or in order to explain why he did steal 
sixpence, how vast in size and fantastic in outline must 
be the ear of a man who stole six millions by un- 
scrupulous company-promoting! Surely the ears, noses, 
faces, and general appearance of some of these great 
financiers must have been hardly human, in their dis- 
tortion o the ordinary human features; they must have 
been monsters and grotesque deformities hidden from 
the light of day. And yet their portraits, when we did 
see them (though not in the illustrative plates of books 
on criminology) , were usually in the last degree smooth, 
bland, and serene. It was quite obvious, from a mere 
glance at their pictures, that no scientific expert had 
ever been allowed to badger them. 

At about the same period in the past there was also 
a great Science of Sociology. I have really no notion of 
what has happened to that. We do sometimes see, even 
now, the name and nonsense of Lombroso invoked with 
solemnity in fourth-rate detective stories and very- 
antiquated atheist pamphlets. Here and there, hidden, 
or rather buried, in some forgotten hamlet, there may be 
a dear old gentleman whom pitying relatives have left 
under the impression that there is a Science of Crimi- 
nology. They have perhaps respected his hobby, the 
harmless and innocent hobby of looking at diagrams 


which show the facial angle of a French apache or an 
Italian anarchist, to explain how it is that some human 
beings have been known to covet their neighbours' 
goods. But of the Science of Sociology I can gather no 
news; nor even make a guess about its horrid but hid- 
den fate. I cannot even hope to find the white-bearded 
ancient in the hut in the lonely wood still studying 
Sociology, as I might find him studying Criminology 
or Astrology or Alchemy or the scientific results of 
combining the eye of the common newt with the toe 
of the edible frog. Even the word itself is now rarely 
encountered. Yet in its time it stood for a definite class 
of ideas; and those ideas are still hanging about in the 
atmosphere, under other names and in connexion with 
other sciences. But I doubt whether the strict and rigid 
meaning of Sociology, as I remember the term in the 
times before the Great War, will ever return in the 
face of present events, and of our most menacing and 
unstable Peace. 

The original point of calling Sociology a science was 
that social actions were so precisely determined that 
they could be precisely predicted. There was no other 
real meaning in talking about a social science, as apart 
from the ordinary thing (which men have always 
known) , which might be called a social philosophy, or 
a social outlook, or a social speculation. It was bound 


up with that great art of Prophecy, which was the vein 
of mysticism running through the materialism of the 
world, between the war in South Africa and the war in 
Europe. It was then said on every side that we should 
soon be able to predict a crisis as easily as a comet; to 
calculate the time of a political explosion as well as of 
a chemical explosion; to foresee that the next national 
Cabinet would return after the Election, as we were 
sure that the migratory birds would return in spring. 
Sometimes, even in the old order, nay, even in the order 
of ornithology, odd things would happen; the birds 
would not return or the members would not be re- 

But that was the old order; and what we are facing 
now is not a new order, but a new disorder. I do not 
believe that the pretence of predicting political or social 
events as certain to happen will now survive the political 
and social events that have actually happened. I do not 
think the Prophet of Sociology can outlive the repeated 
blows of the Great War, of the Russian Revolution, of 
the Fascist Revolution, of the Hitlerite Revolution; not 
one of which the Prophet ever really prophesied. Nay, 
he came nearer to prophesying the earlier than the later 
events. A European War was always a possibility, but 
no scientific sociologist ever said it was a certainty. In 
one sense everybody knew that there might be a Russian 


Revolution; indeed, there had already been a Russian 
Revolution. But Bolshevism was not the Russian Revo- 
lution; on the contrary, it was a new and unique thing 
that put an end to the Russian Revolution. And no 
intellectuals expected the actual thing called Bolshe- 
vism; least of all the Russian intellectuals. 

The poor old Science of Sociology, however, might 
have survived these milder shocks. But will anybody 
pretend that anybody predicted Mussolini? Will any 
scientific sociologist say he had worked out a sociological 
weather-chart, dating the exact emergence and im- 
portance of Hitler? These recent revolutions or re- 
actions, or whatever they are, depart more abruptly 
from the weather-chart even than the weather. Can we 
hope, perhaps, that all of us will begin to see what some 
of us can claim to have seen from the beginning: three 
great truths or dogmas on which all history hangs? (i) 
That humanity is far too complex to have such calcula- 
tions made about it. (2) That humanity is afflicted 
with original sin. (3) That the will of man is free. 
Granted these three facts, it is obvious that nobody 
can predict that nobody will start this or that idea, will 
start it even if it has been unsuccessful, will start it 
even if it may fail again, will start it even if it is wicked, 
and its success therefore more wicked than its failure. 
There are too many men, each with too many moods, 


each with too many influences on them varying from 
instant to instant, to predict how the man will jump; 
for he is much more capricious than that lazy animal 
the cat. Let us at least thank all the rioters and brawlers 
and demagogues and dictators and casual despots for 
their one good deed in destroying the Science of Soci- 
ology. Even the Futurists themselves have made the 
Future free. 

XXV1H On the Letter-Bag Novel 

SOME are now suggesting that the Novel is near to its 
end; and, if so, its end is curiously like its beginning. 
Perhaps it is too much to say that the first childhood of 
fiction is now repeating itself in its second childhood. 
These metaphors from physical nature are among the 
worst monstrosities of materialism; and they are de- 
vouring monsters. There is no animal parallel in such 
things; and ideas do not grow grey whiskers, or heresies 
go bald, or truths lose their teeth. But there is a certain 
analogy, if we remember that it is only an analogy, 
touching the return of some human impulses to their 
original home. Much that is called modern, in the most 
modern fiction, resembles the crude stuff that Defoe 
first began to dig out of the stiff clay of fact. Few 
modern novels are so poetical as Robinson Crusoe; but 
many are much more prosaic than Moll Flanders. The 
most novel sort of novel is that of which we are doubt- 
ful whether it is a novel at all. And in that it really has 
a rough resemblance to the first rough experiment, be- 
fore it was a novel at all. In theory, at least, there is 
nothing to prevent a modern story from wandering like 


Gil Bias or sprawling like Tristram Shandy; and other 
causes must be blamed i it does not walk or wander so 
elegantly as the one or sprawl so exuberantly as the 

But there is one particular point in which I think 
the novel, if it does not grow merely formless, may well 
return to its ancient form. Novels like those of Richard- 
son are often hastily regarded as formless, mostly be- 
cause the modern reader is often overcome by an im- 
pression that they are endless. Yet I doubt if they are 
really longer than the Clissold of Mr. Wells or the 
tremendous trilogies of Mr. Walpole. Anyhow, the 
Victorians left a tradition that the early Georgian 
volumes were very voluminous. That is perhaps be- 
cause the Victorians were working up to the brief but 
brilliant period when stories were supposed to be brief 
and brilliant; as in the sharp, stylistic tales of Steven- 
son, or the expanded epigrams of Kipling. However 
that may be, romance, as Richardson began it, had the 
name of being at best a leisurely and at worst a laborious 
study. Even Macaulay, who admired or even adored 
Clarissa, advised his friends to throw themselves into it 
by beginning at the third volume, and skipping all the 
letters to Italians from Italians or about Italians. I am 
sure there are many bold and Bolshevistic novels now 
which would be most enjoyable if we began with the 


last chapter, and skipped all remarks made by Russians 
to Russians or about Russians. At the end as at the 
beginning, therefore at both extremes, there is a certain 
indefinable element that seems vast and dim and dizzy; 
something that Stevenson would have called being out 
of focus; or not being sufficiently sharp and short. But 
it is not this point, but a more particular point, that I 
would note touching the Richardsonian roots or origins 
of romance. 

Everyone knows that a tale like Clarissa was told 
almost entirely in the form of letters. It was this that 
made many of the intermediate intellectual school, of 
direct and dramatic action, feel that this form of fiction 
was so very formal. It was felt to be not only stilted, but 
slow and sleepy; largely because the human race (in its 
present or recent progressive stage) was progressively 
forgetting how to write any letters, let alone such long 
letters. The boy who liked something very rapid and 
rattling, like Kipling or O. Henry, was also the boy 
who felt it an agonizing bore to write to his grand- 
mother at Christmas. So he recoiled with horror from 
the huge eighteenth-century romances, regarding them 
as so many stacks of letters to and from other people's 
grandmothers. But, in fact, the boy 3yas wrong; as he 
sometimes is, despite the current creed, when he as-. 
sumes that he can teach his grandmother. The ancient 


novelists of the polite epoch were right; and some of the 
modern novelists, even of this very impolite epoch, have 
already begun to find it out. 

The fact is that the old form of a series of letters is 
really an extremely good way to tell a story. It is not 
more conventional and constrained; it is in many ways 
much more unconventional and unconstrained. For the 
novel must either be a novel of correspondence or else 
a novel of conversation. And this sort of writing is really 
much freer than most forms of talking. It is freer for 
two reasons: first, that a man can talk all the time with- 
out being a bounder or a bore; and, second, that a man 
will confess in correspondence with one person what he 
would not confess in conversation with four or five 
persons. Also, while he is talking to them, he will not 
talk about them. But when he is writing a love-letter, 
and telling his fiancee about them, he will tell her all 
about them. It does not follow, however, that the lady 
will agree with him about them. So she will write an- 
other long letter, throwing on each person a new light 
from another angle or aspect; and other letters will 
criticize the characters from other angles or aspects. It 
is really remarkable how rapidly a character can thus 
be not only sketched but sculptured; that is, presented 
in the round like a real object. Whereas mere conversa- 
tion in a story is rather too like conversation of the 


stage: there is something stagey and stiff about it, be- 
cause the types are fixed, in the one attitude in which 
the author wants to present them or they want to pre- 
sent themselves. 

In the witty conversational novel they are all dressed 
up for the footlights; in the more casual correspondence 
novel we get many more glimpses of them in undress, 
in dressing-gowns or shirt-sleeves, as seen by all sorts of 
accidental people at all sorts of accidental times. There- 
fore the old-fashioned, apparently lumbering device of 
the big letter-bag, with which Richardson in Clarissa 
created the Novel, and Scott in Redgawntlet renewed 
the Waverley Novels, has in fact been adopted by 
many fine writers of quite recent times. Mr. Maurice 
Baring has often used it, as a way of opening many 
windows upon his subject and filling the story with 
that white and almost colourless daylight that lies over 
so many of his scenes. Mr. E. V. Lucas has employed 
it in a lighter but equally luminous manner, in those 
felicitous and unclassifiable books which are a sort of 
happy hybrid between the essay and the novel. And it 
looks as if this old method of recording life by letters is 
likely to be applied in other departments. The detective 
story is supposed to demand, more than other stories, a 
direct attack and a dash in medias res: that is, the 
dagger sticking in the very middle of the millionaire. 


But I recently read an extremely good detective story, 
told in what would be called, the slower method o 
correspondence; and it was not slower, but much more 

I have noted in a previous essay that modern drama, 
coldly contemptuous of melodrama, had solemnly 
banished the old fiction of the Soliloquy or the Aside; 
and then, equally solemnly, brought them back again, 
pretending they are a new futuristic technique for per- 
mitting people's subconsciousness to talk out loud with- 
out being heard. But the old expedient of the literary 
letter-bag achieves this object without either sort of 
oddity: without the awkward swagger of the Victorian 
villain, confiding to the gallery or hissing loud secrets 
behind his hand; and also without the much sillier 
swagger of the mere modernistic crank who thinks any- 
thing stark and Slavonic so long as it is incredible and 
crude. A man really does soliloquize in a long letter; 
and, since it is addressed to one person, it is really a long 
aside. Both in the case of the novel and of the drama, 
the moral is that things often renew their life by going 
back to their infancy. 

XXIX On the Touchy Realist 

NOT very long ago, men complained o the cynic, say- 
ing that he was hard and had no human feelings. Now 
they are asked rather to respect the cynic, because his 
feelings are so soft and sensitive. This is a curious 
change, but a real one, and one that has not been ade- 
quately noticed. There is a type of modern youth which 
is cynical not because it is thick-skinned, but because 
it is thin-skinned. It has exactly the same tendency to 
shudder at anything conventional as the Victorian 
spinster had to shudder at anything unconventional. 
Indeed, the cynical youth is in many ways very like the 
Victorian spinster, only not so self-controlled. There is, 
however, in his world of culture exactly the sarne 
fundamental weakness that really weakened the worst 
parts of the old world of convention. I mean, there is 
the horror of certain phrases as such, of certain allusions 
and associations, without any real effort to reduce them 
to any system recognized by the reason. The new type 
of sensitive is sickened by anything that he would call 
sentimental, just as the spinster was by anything that 
she would call cynical. In both cases it is a matter of 


associations and not of analysis; and it matters more 
what words are used than what thought is presented. 
The truly refined youth will turn pale green at the 
mention of a mother's love or be seriously unwell on 
hearing of a happy marriage; just as the refined of more 
remote days would feel very sick if they read his little 
poems about torture or typhus fever. I know a distin- 
guished lady who can hardly even hear the words, 
"women and children," though merely as a convenient 
classification, without being carried fainting from the 
room. People are positively nervous about mentioning 
duty or conscience or religion, because of the high- 
strung and delicately poised sanity of the new sort of 
cynic. It is not altogether as a joke that he tells you 
that, if you say such words, he will scream. Often, even 
as you hear him casually speaking, you can tell that he 
is near to screaming. This is something more than a 
perversity; it is an inversion, and an inversion which 
amounts to a sort of mental malformation. If our aunts 
ought to have been able to hear of immorality without 
fainting, surely our nephews might brace themselves to 
hear about morality without throwing an epileptic fit. 
The real and reasonable question of morality and im- 
morality awaits discussion; and it will not be best dis- 
cussed by epileptics, even if they are also cynics. 

All this has ended in a sort of Manichean madness 


against the fundamental facts of life. It is as if every 
humour of the human body were a disease; every organ 
were a cancerous growth; the whole make-up of man 
consisting of nothing but parasitic organisms. From 
many modern novels and plays, one would suppose 
that all maternal affection was a "possessive" tyranny of 
egotistical tenderness; as if all domestic contentment 
were a paralytic stroke of arrested mental progress; as 
if all natural defence of normal privacy and honour were 
a disease of atavistic jealousy and subhuman segregation. 
That there are mothers who are too possessive, or wives 
who are too conventional, or husbands who are too self- 
ish or unsociable is a fact so obvious that it has been 
satirized by all the satirists of human history. But the 
modern thing I mean carries with it quite a different 
implication. It implies not that the fruit is sometimes 
rotten, but that the root is always rotten; and the 
further that feeling goes, the more it works backwards 
to a rottenness in the very roots of the tree of life. It 
rather resembles a sort of rage of amputation in a mad 
surgeon who has forgotten the difference between the 
malady and the man. There is nothing that needs a 
sense of proportion so much as amputation; and in this 
inhuman philosophy it has gone far beyond the cutting 
off of the hand, or the plucking out of the eye, which 
symbolize the extremes of asceticism. We may tolerate 


the dentist, who passes from the curing of toothache to 
the universal pulling out of teeth. We need not tolerate 
the psychologist, whose only cure for a headache is 
cutting off the head. It will be some time before the 
psychologist can provide an artificial head, as the dentist 
can provide an artificial set of teeth. 

Meanwhile the general stampede against nature 
goes on, and the paradise of the future looks more and 
more like a world of wigs, wooden legs, glass eyes, and 
everything that must be right because nature must be 
wrong. Just as these men would have forgotten that 
there is such a thing as the healthy human body, which 
we may or may not be able to restore, so they have 
forgotten entirely that there is a healthy condition of 
the natural emotions, quite apart from whether it was 
perfectly attained by our immediate parents in the im- 
mediate past. Those who are now called Pagans actually 
do what they themselves have chiefly blamed in the 
Puritans: they despise the body and all the affections 
that lie nearest to the body. Their aestheticism, more 
than any asceticism, has produced a repugnance for the 
real facts of life. Christians renounced the world, the 
flesh, and the devil; the new heathens do their best to 
accept the devil; but they have not stomach enough 
really to accept either the flesh or the world. 

This is a new and curious philosophical phase. In 


many it is not yet conscious. But for many it will be 
the final phase of that fury of fastidiousness which al- 
ready rages in them against the mere mention of com- 
mon affections or even natural habits. It is an odd thing 
that a movement which set out with a claim to satisfy 
the most perilous natural passions should end by being 
unsatisfied even with the most harmless natural affec- 
tions. But the serpent always bites his own tail; and the 
whirlwind always turns upon itself; and all the emana- 
tions of evil in history have always described this strange 
curve and ended up by contradicting themselves. The 
excess of Private Judgment ended in Prussianism; the 
excess of Prohibitionism and Puritanism ended in a 
government of bootleggers and gangsters; the excess of 
cut-throat competition, born of the Manchester School, 
ended in the universal tyranny of the Monopoly and 
the Trust. This is not the first time in history that the 
excess of Paganism has led to mere Pessimism, and its 
name now, like its name two thousand years ago, is, or 
.ought to be, Manicheanism. It appears at that point 
when men can no longer distinguish between the 
leprosy that is devouring the life and the life which it 
devours; when their rage against the weeds that choke 
^the flowers passes into a wild feeling that all flowers are 
weeds; when the tares and the wheat seem so hopelessly 
entangled that the demented farmer is more angry with 


the wheat than with the tares. That was the frame of 
mind in which many men, in the age of St. Augustine, 
for instance, passed from a Greek glorification of nature 
to an Oriental glorification of nothing; because nature 
herself demanded sacrifice and life itself imposes limits. 
By ignoring limits, they lost all sense even of the limit 
that divides life and death, and finally found in death 
the only unlimited liberty. That ancient and tragic 
transformation from the Pagan to the Manichee is 
passing through many minds, and fulfilling itself before 
our very eyes today; and whether there be any cure for 
it, deeper than the destruction itself, this is no place to 

But we can protest against history and human ex- 
perience being distorted by these fleeting fads and 
fashions. Because we know nothing at all about Cor- 
nelia, except that she loved her children and called them 
her jewels, we need not tolerate the nonsense of some- 
body who says that she must have been a "possessive" 
mother, devouring her children's lives with destructive 
affection. Because we know nothing whatever about 
Scaevola, except that he is said to have thrust his hand 
in the fire as a defiance to the enemies of his country, 
we need not listen to the rubbish of recent psycho- 
pathologists, who will doubtless suggest that he had a 
perverted sexual pleasure in feeling pain. Because there 


is nothing known about Absalom, except that he in- 
dulged in a very ordinary human freak of getting up 
against his father, we need not rush to the exploded 
doctrines of Freud to find an unproved jealousy about 
an unrecorded mother. We can keep our common sense, 
and know that ordinary things are so called because 
they often happen, and that they need no explanation 
but the order of things as they are. 

XXX On Wordsworth 

I WAS lately looking into a new book about Words- 
worth, which may broadly be described as a defence of 
Wordsworth. At first sight it might appear that 
Wordsworth is hardly an historical person who needs 
white-washing. There might almost appear to be too 
much of such an element about. I mean that in some 
versions he appears rather too white, and in other ver- 
sions rather too washy. Indeed, the publisher's note 
affixed by the Cambridge University Press to the book 
in question (which is called The Later Wordsworth, by 
Miss Edith C. Batho) seems rather to go to the other 
extreme. We all know that Wordsworth's youth was 
the time when he sympathized with the democratic 
vision of the idealists in Pans; we all know that he had 
a youthful entanglement in France; and we all know, 
or most of us think, that this earlier period was the 
period of his most fruitful and creative poetry. Still, 
most of us know what we mean when we say that 
Wordsworth was Wordsworth; and could hardly be 
mistaken for Byron. In the light of this, there is some- 
thing a little challenging in a note which says, "His 


stormy youth offers at first sight a striking contrast to 
the apparent tranquillity of his maturity and age.'* 

The contrast, as stated, seems not only striking but 
almost alarming. It hardly seems as if one juvenile love 
affair, however improper, was sufficient to turn Words- 
worth into a stormy character. And why does the 
publisher or editor employ that dark and sinister phrase, 
"The apparent tranquillity of his maturity and age"? 
Are we to infer that Wordsworth at the age of seventy 
or eighty was still secretly painting the town red; and 
writing a sonnet on Westminster Bridge at daybreak 
when he came home with the milk? Can it be insinu- 
ated that even as a Victorian under Queen Victoria he 
continued but concealed his orgies? I hasten to say that 
I am well aware that this cannot be the meaning of the 
phrase; but the phrase seems to me unluckily selected. 
Presumably the word "stormy" really refers rather to 
his exultation in the great political storm; that is, his 
early sympathy with the French Revolution. Stevenson 
classed it among the baffling incongruities of genius 
that Wordsworth wore blue spectacles. We may admit, 
symbolically speaking, that he did at one time look at 
revolution through red spectacles; and perhaps at 
modern political theories through rose-coloured specta- 
cles. But it is clear from this biography, as from any 
other, that he very rapidly lost that rosy vision; and, 


with or without the help o spectacles, relapsed quite 
sufficiently into the blues. The youth, to quote his own 
words of an even earlier illumination, may be the vision 
splendid, have been on his way attended; but certainly 
the man perceived it die away and fade into the light 
of common day. And it is only fair to say that Words- 
worth, at his best, could sometimes do more than most 
people with the light of common day; and even make 
it in flashes, like the light that never was on sea or land. 
Anyhow, we may submit that this greater Words- 
worth would have been easier to present as The Earlier 
Wordsworth than as The Later Wordsworth. Though 
Miss Bacho writes with considerable spirit in defence of 
his whole career, especially in the later chapters, it is 
inevitable that there should be this relative flatness in 
the later life. The book is bound to consist far too much 
of mere records of what the old gentleman thought of 
the politics of his time; which was often pretty much 
what all the other old gentlemen were thinking of the 
politics of their time, or rather of a time that was no 
longer really theirs. She does succeed in showing, how- 
ever, that he retained some real popular sympathies and 
generous social ideas down to the day of his death; as, 
for instance, that, in a matter like the Ten Hour Bill, 
the old Tory was on the side of the poor where many 
Radicals were on the side of the rich. But the chief im- 


pression left by her apologia is a curious vein of reflec- 
tion upon the contradictions and inversions of all that 
strange period of history that stretches from the French 
Revolution to the Russian Revolution. William Words- 
worth does really stand as a representative figure in all 
that transition; the more because he was charged with 
changing so much; and yet more again, because he 
really changed so little. 

There is something that is always discovered by men 
if they live long enough; and Wordsworth lived very- 
long; quite long enough to discover it, though he did 
not say very much about it. It is something quite dis- 
tinct from his reaction against revolution in early middle 
age; indeed, it is not merely a reaction against revolu- 
tion; it is quite as much a reaction against reaction. It 
might be called the fact that the world goes round; as 
distinct from the fact that the world goes on. It is quite 
consistent with the admission that in some respects the 
world may go on; or that it does go on. The point is 
that the young very often mistake for the movement of 
going on, what is, so far, only the movement of going 
round. Between fourteen and forty, a man sees a great 
tide coming in and another tide ebbing away; and as- 
sociates the first with the future and the second with the 
past. But by the time he is fifty, he has generally begun 
to realize what is meant by ebb and flow, and by the 


turn of the tide. He may even happen to be in favour 
of the tide that is flowing today; or he may look for- 
ward to the counter-flood that may flow tomorrow; but 
he does not think that the movement tomorrow is cer- 
tain to be a mere extension of the movement today. Of 
course, I abjure with horror the heresy that human wills 
are controlled like tides; I heartily agree that human- 
ity is not forced to go backwards and forwards, any 
more than it is forced to go forward or to go back. But 
in practical experience the human being generally does 
go back. And he goes back for one of the commonest 
and most practical reasons for going back: because he 
has left something behind. There is such a thing as 
social wreck, like the wreck of Robinson Crusoe's ship. 
There is such a thing as social progress, like the progress 
of Robinson Crusoe's farm. But where the philosophers 
are wrong and the romancer is right, and indeed very 
realistic, is that Robinson Crusoe will have to go back 
very often to the wreck in order to stock or furnish the 
farm. When there really is anything like the building 
of a new civilization, it means that there has been a 
great deal of quarrying in the ruins of the old civiliza- 
tion. When there is only a false start, a half-built farm- 
house, a half-baked culture and bankruptcy, it means 
that the reformers have tried to simplify life too much; 
they have left behind them all that they wanted most. 


It is a proverb that Wordsworth outlived the triumph 
of his first political ideal. It is less noticed that he also 
outlived the triumph o his second political ideal. The 
vision of the Holy Alliance, as seen by Alexander, was 
quite as Apocalyptic as the vision o the Republic One 
and Indivisible as seen by Robespierre. Wordsworth, as 
an Englishman, might call himself a Tory; but English 
Tories had a good deal to do with discouraging the 
second vision as well as the first. Perhaps it would be an 
exaggeration to say that Pitt killed the Revolution and 
Canning killed the Reaction. But at least a man learned 
in time that revolution and reaction alternately kill each 
other. The world that Wordsworth saw growing around 
him, in his old age, was not the world of liberty prom- 
ised by the Jacobins or the peace of Christendom 
promised by the Kings. It was an urban and suburban 
world, which would have been hated by Wordsworth 
quite as much as by Shelley. It was full of a crude and 
Cockney philosophy of competition. Wordsworth lived 
long enough finally to resent and resist that advancing 
fashion. If Wordsworth had lived a little longer, he 
would have seen it as a retreating fashion, as a vanishing 
fashion. He would have found the flat contrary of 
competition, Socialism and even Communism, coming 
in as the religion of the future. But he would have been 
wrong again, if he had thought that it was the religion 



of the future. By this time, we have got another religion 
of the future, exactly the opposite; Fascism, and prob- 
ably they none of them will really live to be the religion 
of the future at all. 

XXXI On Facing Facts 

WE talk o people living in the past; and it is com- 
monly applied to old people or old-fashioned people. 
But, in fact, we all live in the past, because there is 
nothing else to live in. To live in the present is like 
proposing to sit on a pin. It is too minute, it is too 
slight a support, it is too uncomfortable a posture, and 
it is of necessity followed immediately by totally differ- 
ent experiences, analogous to those of jumping up with 
a yell. To live in the future is a contradiction in terms. 
The future is dead; in the perfectly definite sense that 
it is not alive. It has no nature, no form, no feature, no 
vaguest character of any kind except what we choose 
to project upon it from the past. People talk about the 
dead past; but the past is not in the least dead, in the 
sense in which the future is dead. The past can move 
and excite us, the past can be loved and hated, the past 
consists largely of lives that can be considered in their 
completion; that is, literally in the fullness of life. But 
nobody knows anything about any living thing in the 
future, except what he chooses to make up, by his own 
imagination, out of what he regrets in the past or what 


he desires in the present. Anyone of the Utopias, or 
visions of the future, such as were written by Wells or 
William Morris or Bellamy or any number of others, is 
simply a patchwork of the past. It can be taken to 
pieces, and analysed into its component parts in the 
memories of mankind; a scientific appliance taken from 
the nineteenth century; a type of craftsmanship taken 
from the fourteenth century; a sort of diet taken from 
the Orientals; a sort of drapery taken from the Greeks. 
The real disadvantage of this sort of Futurism is that 
it is much too much disposed to dig in the past; to dig 
anywhere so long as it is in the past; but, above all, to 
dig in the most remote past. Thus the Communists tell 
us that Communism prevailed in some prehistoric 
period, and many Pacifists support their ideal by a 
theory that war was a late and artificial addition to the 
early history of man. Where there is, perhaps, a real 
need of correction is in correcting this. It is in bringing 
back these wandering antiquaries from the remote past 
to the recent past. The most dangerous gap in general 
knowledge is the gap in the minds of most men about 
what happened to their own fathers. They often know 
rather more about what happened to their grandfathers, 
and much more about what happened to their great- 

Let me, like a good patriot, begin by critizing the 


defects o my own country. Nobody understands Eng- 
land today, and nobody will understand England to- 
morrow, least of all the Englishman, if he does not 
realize that a thousand things in his whole mind and 
make-up refer back to a fairly recent fact; that he was 
in the nineteenth century the richest man in the world; 
we might even say the only rich man in the world. It 
was not only prosperity, but this isolation in prosperity, 
that made him insular. For it is not islands that make 
us insular. Nobody ever said that the old Greek islands 
were particularly insular. The materialistic attempt to 
explain man by material conditions is always wrong. It 
was this peculiar prosperity of the Englishman in an 
exhausted Europe, after Waterloo (or, rather, the 
philosophy producing and pursuing it) , that produced 
endless eccentricities that still remain. 

In that very Victorian novel, The Woman in White, 
that very Victorian villain, Sir Percival Clyde, says to 
the Italian villain: "You foreigners are all alike." He 
said it to Count Fosco, who was not at all like most 
other foreigners, let us hope, and, in any case, was an 
Italian, and therefore utterly different from a Russian 
or a Spaniard. But what Sir Percival meant, in the 
language of his time, was that all foreign Counts were 
beggarly foreign Counts. Count Fosco, he felt, would 
have been quite as beggarly if he had been a Spanish 


Count or a Russian Count. Now no other nation in 
Europe had that queer and sweeping generalization. 
There were any number o Jingoes and Imperialists and 
exaggerated patriots in all the countries of Europe. But 
no French chauvinist thought that a Prussian was pretty 
much the same sort o person as a Portuguese. No Rus- 
sian Imperial statesman thought the Poles were the 
same as the Germans, however much he might be op- 
pressing one or plotting against the other. No Austrian 
thought the English must be like the Turks, merely 
because they were not like the Austrians. That peculiar 
sort of sweeping view of "foreigners" was peculiar to 
the English mind, and it has not entirely vanished from 
the English subconscious mind. It was rooted in the 
mood which first tolerated, and then worshipped, the 
towering fortunes made by the great Whig nobles, 
overtopping the Crown itself; as in the celebrated 
phrase of Queen Victoria herself, who said to one of 
them: "I come from my house to your palace." It was 
perfectly true that, compared to those Dukes at that 
period, almost every foreign Count was a beggarly 
Count. Only some of us happen to hold a philosophy 
by which being a beggar might be even better than 
being a Count. 

Now it is the same in another way with the Ger- 
mans, or, rather, especially with the Prussians. Only I 


will mingle my confessions with this last patriotic 
boast; that I do think that the English, however 
muddle-headed, have more common sense. About the 
time, or a little after the time, of the great English 
prosperity came the brief and brilliant period of Prus- 
sian victory. At Sadowa, the Prussian sabre suddenly 
knocked the sceptre out of the hand of the Holy Roman 
Emperor. Hardly anybody realizes the importance of 
that stroke, so wholly do we live in our own time and 
so little in our fathers' time. The effect was enormous; 
more enormous than the earthquake of 1870 in France. 
For it has, in fact, transferred the sceptre and every- 
thing else from the old German Emperors on the 
Danube to the new German Emperors on the Spree. It 
is proved in the very fact that when we said "The 
Kaiser," we did not mean the old historic Kaiser; that 
when we say "Germany," we do not mean what men 
from the twelfth to the eighteenth century meant by 
the Empire of the Germans. Then followed the more 
sensational capture of Paris and violent acquisition of 
two unquestionably French Provinces. Now the Ger- 
mans have been living ever since on that brief tri- 
umphant period, more fully and blindly than we are 
living on our brief prosperous period. They are a race 
naturally mythological and living in the clouds, as one 
of their own greatest poets very truly said. The crash of 


the economic depression has come to us; and we at least 
have begun to suspect dimly that we are not quite so 
rich as we were. But the crash of the Great War, and 
the defeat, came to them; and they simply could not 
believe it. For a time they were stunned; which was 
called the interlude of enlightened government. But 
they had always been told that they were invincible, 
and, sooner or later, at some date long enough after the 
defeat, they were due to begin boasting again that they 
are invincible. 

That is the meaning of Hitler and the whole hysteria 
of today. Mythology has returned; the clouds are roll- 
ing over the landscape, shutting out the broad daylight 
of fact; and Germans are wandering about saying they 
will dethrone Christ and set up Odin and Thor, But 
we cannot understand it by looking only at the last 
ten years of peace, or even at the original five years of 
war. The meaning of it, like the meaning of the insular 
placidity even of the most bewildered Englishman, is 
hidden in those previous years which are often for- 
gotten, between the end of history and the beginning of 
journalism. We must realize how strongly the German 
believed, as in Luther's hymn, that he was in an im- 
pregnable fortress; just as the Englishman once be- 
lieved that he was in an unbreakable Bank. But, as I 
say, when all is fairly considered, and that without 
-203 > 


insular prejudices, I do think that the English come out 
the better of the two. We are beginning to let it dawn 
on us, in a dazed way, that we are not in a position to 
patronize the whole world in the matter of money, and 
we shall put up with our poverty in as manly a manner 
as we may. But at least we do not all go mad and rush 
out into the street screaming that we are all million- 
aires; we do not recognize the general rum by shouting 
that all our own pockets are stuffed with pearls and 
diamonds; we do not tell an astounded world that we 
are still as rich as we were when Consols were at their 
highest. And that would be the commercial parallel to 
the madness of Mr. Hitler. 

XXXII On Free Verse 

THE problem of Free Verse, like trie problem of the 
African Race in the American Republic, seems to be 
rather more problematical after it has been freed than 
it was before it was freed. Anybody now can print as 
much free verse as he likes, without being out of 
fashion, or even against convention. And yet the thing 
has never become quite normal; even if it becomes uni- 
versal. There remains a puzzle about it; about exactly 
how far a more regular rhythm was a harmony or a 
restraint, which makes every scrap of verse without 
metre or rhyme turn into a sort of riddle; and a riddle 
(we may remark) generally did sound most mystical 
and alluring when it was in metre and rhyme. The 
primary case for free verse was always fair enough, so 
far as it went. There certainly are verbal rhythms which 
are not exactly those of any classical metre, but which 
do produce an effect which is not merely that of prose, 
but rather of a sort of chant or incantation. There are 
a great many in the English translation of the Bible. 
"O my son Absalom; O Absalom my son"; "Or ever 
the silver cord be loosed and the golden bowl is broken; 


and the pitcher is broken at the fountain and the wheel 
broken at the cistern." The interweaving of the word 
"broken" is itself an unbroken pattern. And the same 
fine effect has sometimes been produced in modern free 
verse. I know one passage in a poem of Mr. T. S. Eliot, 
which begins, I think, "Pray for Rinaldo, avid of speed 
and power," which might really satisfy the most classi- 
cal critic who was well, who was avid of speed and 
power. But I have read other poems of T. S. Eliot in 
which I cannot perceive any rhythm or direction at all; 
certainly nothing which he, being a cultivated and 
versatile man, could not have expressed better in classic 
verse or classic prose. 

I happen to have before me a poem by the late 
D. H. Lawrence, about whom so many people seem 
suddenly and simultaneously moved to write books and 
articles. But I am not going to write an article about 
D. H. Lawrence, but only about the particular form 
he chose for this particular poem. It does not raise any 
of the disturbing questions about Lawrence about which 
so many of his friends and foes seem to be disturbed. 
There are certain ethical controversies in which I should 
believe myself to be on the side of civilization, and in 
which I think he would, quite honestly, avow himself 
on the side of barbarism. But those questions do not 
arise here. Even those who would most indignantly 


declare that what I call barbarism was a beneficent 
revolution would not pretend that this poem is at all 
revolutionary. Its theme is one o the very oldest 
themes, even of the very oldest poets. It is the glory of 
the Homeric Age, which must have been glorified in 
pretty nearly every age since the Homeric Age. It is 
that never-fading freshness that seems to lie upon the 
glittering Greek Islands and the first myths of our cul- 
ture. There is nothing revolutionary about it, unless 
writing free verse is still revolutionary. And I only wish 
to inquire, in a friendly spirit, whether writing free 
verse is really an assistance to writing good verse. I am 
not calling in question the powers of the poet; I am 
simply asking whether the same poet would have pro- 
duced the same poem, or a better or a worse poem, if 
he had chosen to write it in the traditional forms of 
poetry. In other words, I would take this one piece of 
free verse merely as a test of how much verse does gain 
or lose by being what is called free. It is only a sort of 
parlour game, but it is a problem that happens to amuse 
me. First of all, let us take the free verse poem as it 
stands. It is called "The Argonauts": 

They are not dead, they are not dead! 
Now that the sun, like a lion, licks his paws and goes 
slowly down the hill: 


now that the moon, who remembers, and only cares 
that we should be lovely in the flesh, with bright, 

crescent feet, 
pauses near the crest o the hill, climbing slowly, like a 

looking down on the lion as he retreats. 

Now the sea is the Argonaut's sea; . . , 

I cannot quote the whole, but it ends with a sharp 
command not to bring the coffee or pain grille till 
the ships of Odysseus have sailed past. 

Now I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I say 
that the first impression I have is that, while this mode 
of utterance has become free verse, it has not become 
free poetry. I mean that it has not produced any purely 
poetical effect that is freer or wilder or more elemental, 
magical, or hitherto uncaptured than Shelley or Swin- 
burne or any good poet has produced in formal poetry. 
It is more conversational; it is not more primeval or 
even more barbaric. It is more like talk; but not more 
like tempests loosened or passions made alive. It seems 
to me, I confess, that the actual effect of the feeling of 
liberty is even a certain limpness. "As he retreats" is a 
weaker ending than so able a writer could have put into 
a sonnet. The only phrase that claims to be original 
looks oddly artificial. It is not merely the literal logical 


point: that the sun is seldom observed to lick its paws. 
It is that the image does not really suit the lion any 
more than the sun; certainly not the lion taken as a 
noble symbol of the sun. It has no imaginative fitness; 
licking the paws could only remind us that the lion is 
like the pussycat on the hearth-rug; the last thing we 
want to think when he represents the archaic energy of 
the Sun God. It looks to me as if Lawrence, writing in 
the spirit of an ancient poem, unconsciously felt he 
must put in something to show he was a modern poet. 
But does the freer form really give him a chance of 
stronger effects? I doubt it. Suppose he had chosen to 
write the same thought in unfree verse; as so clever a 
man could doubtless have done much better than I can. 
Suppose he had begun something like this: 

They are not dead! The sun like a golden lion 
Goes down to that red desert where he dies; 
The moon, that is bare of all but bodily beauty, 
The moon, that is careless of all but bodily beauty, 
Looks down on the dying lion where he lies; 
Like a queen, from the steep skies. 

This sea is of the Argo. Great Odysseus, etc. 

I only give this, of course, as a very ordinary sample 
of the old classical or even rhetorical verse, which any 


educated man could write; I am concerned wholly with 
the inquiry of whether this old style is not really rather 
stronger than the new style. Many great men have 
written in the new style, and believed it would be 
stronger. "Easily-written, loose-fingered chords," said 
Walt Whitman, "I feel the thrum of your climax and 
close." But that is exactly what I do not do; I do not 
feel that "as he retreats" is the best that Lawrence could 
do for a climax and close. A stronger sense of the roll- 
ing sea of the Argonauts comes over me with the long 
rolling line of "Atalanta": 

From the Acroceraunian Kills to the ford of the Fleece 
of Gold. 

I merely propound this as the practical problem of free 
verse; of whether the freedom really does tend to liberty 
or only to laxity. I fancy the poet here fell between two 
stools; between the classic tripod of Delphi and the 
prosaic wooden stool that Puck pulled from under the 
old woman; the type of the more modern spirit of ab- 
rupt bathos and the grotesque. I am very fond of the 
grotesque; and in some ways I much prefer Puck to 
Apollo. But, strictly as a critical problem, I doubt 
whether the modern manner does make better creative 
poetry in a description qf the tall ships of Ulysses going 
by the Isles of Greece. 

XXXIII On Eric Gill 

I RECENTLY had the honour of taking part in one o 
those Mock Trials organized at the London School o 
Economics, with the intention of supporting a charity 
by very uncharitable denunciations of every class of the 
community in turn. Before I arrived on the scene, 
actors, authors, and many other respectable guilds had 
been duly blackened and slandered to the satisfaction 
of the audience, and it fell to my lot to take away the 
character of several friends of mine who belong to the 
profession known as Art. Among the villains of the 
piece were Sir William Rothenstein and Mr. Eric Gill, 
and some of the ideas developed by the latter, in the 
course of his defence, are very luminously set out in a 
book he has recently published: a collection of essays 
called Beauty Looks After Herself. It is not for me to 
recall in detail the horrors of that dreadful day. So far 
as I could see, the Artists left the Court without a stain 
on their characters, and the Prosecuting Counsel left it 
having lost any character that he had left. But his in- 
terest in intellectual ideas survives any such deplorable 
lapse in his social morals, and he was, and is, very 


much interested m the ideas of Mr. Eric Gill. Roughly 
speaking, the intellectual situation is this. 

My own general thesis was somewhat to this effect: 
that Artists have worried the world by being wantonly, 
needlessly, and gratuitously progressive. Politicians 
have to be progressive; that is, they have to live in the 
future, because they know that they have done nothing 
but evil in the past. But Artists, who have been right 
from the beginning of the world, who were, perhaps, 
the only people who were right even in the beginning 
of the world, decorating pottery or designing rude 
frescoes on the rock when other people were fighting 
or offering human sacrifice, they have no right to de- 
spise their own past. Their fickleness and mutability is 
wanton; and all legal systems roughly agree that extra 
blame attaches to a crime that is wanton. The million- 
aire who carefully removes all the pennies from a blind 
beggar's hat is blamed if, indeed, a modern million- 
aire is ever really blamed. The man who bashes-in the 
head of a lady, a total stranger to whom he has never 
been introduced, is rebuked for the callousness of his 
social behaviour, if he cannot plead, in extenuation, be- 
fore a modern court, that she is his wife, or his mother, 
or the sister he has promised to support, or somebody 
towards whom a man is now supposed to be in a neces- 
sary and permanent state of hostility. But to make a 


scene, as a murderer must always make a scene to 
kick up a row, to create a riot, when there are no com- 
prehensible causes o exasperation that is still regarded 
as a breach of social tact, or what our quaint old an- 
cestors would have called a sin. 

Now even in my own lifetime I have seen two or 
three artistic revolutions, each sweeping the whole ar- 
tistic world: pre-Rapkaelites and Impressionists and 
post-Impressionists, and then any number more, and 
I question whether this perpetual quarrel in one of the 
arts is necessary. Here, however, I am not interested in 
my argument, but only in the real answer to it. Mr. 
Eric Gill really answers, in the only way in which a 
real revolutionist can answer, that his is the right revo- 
lution and every other is the wrong revolution. And this 
is admirably sensible and sane. There is no tradition in 
revolutions; every revolution is a revolution against the 
last revolution. Even in this amusing affair of the ac- 
cusation of the Artists, all the Artists disagreed with 
each other much more than they disagreed with me. 
But Mr. Gill took the matter rather more seriously than 
the rest, and maintained in his speech, as he maintains 
in his book, a conception which is none the worse for 
being almost entirely his own. I am not professing 
either to prove or disprove it here, but only to notice 
certain rather curious changes which it indicates in the 


history of modern thought; and especially in that vast 
amount o very modern thought which perpetually 
passes in successive waves through the minds of the 

One queer thing about the history of thought is that 
very big things have a way of quietly collapsing in the 
middle of it, while everybody remains for generations 
unconscious of the collapse. Nobody knows, for in- 
stance, at what point the men of medieval times really 
realized that they were not, in the old sense, living in 
the Roman Empire. There was certainly never any 
definite moment when they definitely said they were 
not. Monks praising Simon de Montfort that is, 
supporting a purely local feudal lord against a purely 
insular and independent king use the old Roman 
word of The Republic, exactly as it would have been 
used by Licinius or Gracchus. So changes pass over 
modern thought, or merely over modern taste, and no- 
body notices the enormous implications that may per- 
'haps follow them in the future. If I were asked what 
was the most extraordinary event in mere modern opin- 
ion, I should not think of Einstein or such trifles as 
Time and Space. I should say that the whole perspec- 
tive of human history has been at least temporarily al- 
tered by the collapse of the prestige of the Renaissance. 
And that is due almost entirely to the Artists, those 


restless demons. 

The whole nineteenth-century rationalism, and most 
twentieth-century rationalism, is really founded on the 
idea that the sixteenth century broke out o the dun- 
geon o the Dark Ages and saw the light. I am not 
now arguing about whether this is true. I am only 
pointing out that the Artists now declare it to be false. 
It is very difficult for the philosophers to maintain that 
philosophy first became rational, or for the politicians 
to maintain that politics first became free, or for the 
scientists to maintain that science first became possible, 
at the very moment when the Artists declare that Art 
first became vulgar and varnished and photographic and 
cheaply realistic and all the rest. After all, the Art of 
the Renaissance was much more conspicuously and 
admittedly triumphant than the philosophy of the Re- 
naissance, or the politics of the Renaissance, or the 
science of the Renaissance. The public was more ready 
to accept Raphael as the first of painters than to accept 
Machiavelli as its party leader, and Bruno as its guide. 
It was willing, in successive stages, to admit that Bot- 
ticelli was a good painter, or even that Giotto was a 
good painter; but almost entirely on the ground that 
Giotto promised to become as realistic as Botticelli, or 
Botticelli as realistic as Raphael. 

And now that way of being realistic is rejected and 


reviled, under the horrid title of being photographic. 
Men of the school of Mr. Eric Gill entirely refuse to 
regard Giotto as the first good artist; their highest com- 
pliment to him would be to say that he was the last 
good artist. They are entirely in favour of the more 
antiquated school of design, which ruled in even darker 
portions of the Dark Ages. They praise the great By- 
zantine patterns, for all the reasons that would have 
led the followers of the Renaissance to doubt whether 
they were even pictures. Although I took for a text the 
disgraceful day on which I figured as an advocate, my 
mood at the moment of writing is entirely judicial. I 
do not mean to argue either for or against the new 
theory of art, which discredits the rationalism and real- 
ism of the Renaissance. I only say that it does in that 
degree discredit the Renaissance, and that anything 
that discredits the Renaissance does in that degree dis- 
tort the whole existing theory of European history. 
Only men have not realized it yet. They do not as yet 
see all the indirect implications that may follow upon 
such a theory of false progress or real reaction. Perhaps 
even the Artists, wicked as they are, do not know. 
And the Artists are such dangerous anarchists that I 
am not sure that I ought to tell them. 


XXXIV On Prussian Paganism 

GENERAL LUDENDORFF, the eminent Prussian com- 
mander, has been reported as saying these words: "I 
repudiate Christianity as not appropriate to the German 
character. 5 ' The remark set me thinking, especially 
about the general absence of thought, and a growing 
division in mankind upon that matter. To me it seems 
very much as i I were to say: "I deny the existence of 
the Solar System, as unsuited to the Chestertonian 
temperament." In other words, I cannot make any 
sense of it at all. 

I do not here distinguish against the poor General 
because he is a German General, though Germans 
really have a way of overdoing these things which is 
rather peculiar to themselves. I do not maintain that all 
Prussians are pigs; but I do say that their peculiar dis- 
position to go the whole hog makes them appear, to 
those opposed to them at the moment, more roundedly 
and completely hoggish. When Mr. Bernard Shaw 
declared, in his debates at the beginning of the War, 
that there was no difference between the Prussian and 
the English aristocracy, and that an officer in the Prus- 


sian Guard was neither worse nor better than an officer 
in the Horse Guards or the Grenadier Guards, I pointed 
out at the time that the plain facts were against him. 
That a British officer might conceivably be more o a 
fool than the Prussian officer; that he might be a stu- 
pider or a wickeder man; that he might even in his 
secret heart be a prouder man all that is quite argu- 
able. But that British officers do not draw their swords 
on waiters or spurn ladies into the gutter with their 
spurs is not arguable; it is certain. There is, as a hard, 
historical fact, a different culture and code of manners 
in the two countries, whatever may be the spiritual and 
interior truth about any individual in either. 

And this distinction, as I also pointed out previously, 
is rather specially true in this matter of the choice or 
recognition of a religion. I think it not unlikely that 
there are venerable English warriors, respected in the 
club and in the camp, whose views on theology, if any, 
would not be expressed with the subtle wit of Pascal or 
the compact logic of St. Thomas Aquinas. I take it 
that there are many such dear old boys whose use of 
theological language is mostly of an exclamatory and 
emotional description, and is often directed rather to 
moving Acheron than to bending the gods. Or, again, 
I have no doubt a good many of them would be even 
avowedly sceptical and hostile to the creed of their 


fathers, and would say the same sort of thing that poor 
Ludendorff said; only that they would express it still 
more vaguely by saying: "Got no use for religion, my- 
self"; or "Never let the parsons kid me." But if anyone 
says that these keen sceptics or profound rationalists 
are just the same as General Ludendorff, that their re- 
jection of Christianity is exactly like his rejection of 
Christianity, then I say that it is nothing of the sort. 
There is a separate type and tradition, and it is easily 

If you tell me that Earl Haig or Sir Henry Wilson 
went round England with a brass band, just after the 
War, advising everybody to worship Odin and Freya 
and Thor, because a religion of peace was inappropriate 
to the English character, I say they did not. If you say 
that the most violent materialist or the most scoffing 
sceptic among the dear old Majors who have quarrelled 
with their parsons were afterwards found erecting rude 
wooden altars, wreathed with oak and mistletoe, at 
which a true Nordic people might worship the heathen 

gods of their Norse piratical ancestors, I answer that 

& r 

they were not. Yet Ludendorff himself, a Marshal who 
had swayed the huge marching armies of a mighty 
empire and held the lives of millions of men in his 
hands, did actually end by doing this very thing. It is 
easy to call him erratic, but he cannot have been a fool; 


and even a fool, if he were an ordinary English military 
fool, would never have turned to lunacy like that. The 
point to seize is that even the real resemblances that 
have at certain times existed between the English and 
the Germans, the influence of some past alliances, of 
some parallel religious experiences, of some old ram- 
ifications of royal families, of some very modern hypoth- 
eses about race, of some consolidation as well as com- 
petition in commerce, of some similarity of ambition 
in colonization the point is that even these are re- 
semblances relatively superficial, covering differences 
that are very much more subtle. 

There is something positive in the Paganism of Ger- 
many which is merely negative in the Paganism of 
England. The red-faced old Major in the English club 
has a sort of frivolity even in his fury. He does not 
often manage to say what he means, and therefore does 
not really mean what he says. But General Ludendorff, 
when he asks a mild Saxon professor in spectacles to go 
down suddenly on his knees and worship Thor, does 
really and truly mean what he says. When Herr Hitler 
says other things on other subjects, which sound to us 
quite as extraordinary, he does really mean what he 
says. Like every other real difference, the difference can 
be turned round and regarded from either point of 
view; can be described in terms that belittle or terms 


that exalt. We can call that temper the presence o 
sincerity; we can call it only the presence of solemnity; 
we can call it simply the absence of sanity. But it is un- 
questionably the absence of a certain sort of levity; a 
sort of grumbling laughter that rumbles in the inside 
of the old Major at the club and of most other English- 
men also; and does mean, in the majority of cases, that 
his bark is worse than his bite. It is represented, as I 
have already remarked, by the somewhat familiar fact 
that he uses the most lurid diction of demonology for 
entirely trivial occasions. The Major in the club is not 
a diabolist or a devil-worshipper because he begins 

half-a-dozen sentences with: "What the devil ." 

But the Hitlerite is much more like a devil-worshipper, 
because he does really worship the German God. 

Newman, I think, remarked very truly that good 
generally fails by falling short of itself and evil by 
overleaping itself. Whether or no it be a fair applica- 
tion, it is certainly true that the Prussian soldier may 
take the Swastika on his flag only too seriously; while 
the English soldier may take the Cross on his flag not 
seriously enough. The blunders or wrongs that result 
from both faults may often seem very much the same, 
and yet the faults are fundamentally opposite. Even 
the revolt against religion is the revolt of two different 
religions, or perhaps of two different irreligions. And 


yet, in spite of all this, there is one thing in which both 
revolts are the same, and even both rebels very similar, 
having been born in the same epoch out of some of the 
same experiences. And that is in the bottomless mud- 
dle-headedness of what they actually say. 

I need not go back at this stage to what the dis- 
tinguished Prussian Pagan did actually say. It is more 
precise and priggish in tone than the vaguer version 
o the same thing which would be given by our own 
heathen in our own happy land. But what in the world 
does it mean? "I repudiate Christianity as not appro- 
priate to the German character." You are, by hypoth- 
esis, discussing whether a certain theory about the 
whole nature of things is true. You are discussing 
whether the world did begin in a certain way; go wrong 
in a certain way; find help to go right again in a certain 
way; and whether it will end in a certain way, whether 
we like it or not. And the answer is not that the theory 
is false, but that it has not been specially composed to 
suit the taste or temperament of people living in a 
particular marsh, or halfway up a particular mountain, 
or along the shores of a particular inland lake; or in 
any local atmosphere which may or may not improve 
the faculties for finding the truth. It does not matter 
whether the statement is a statement of fact; it only 
matters whether it will instantly fit into the mood 


now filling the mind of the people in Tibet or Tooting 
or Ballyhooley or Berlin. Men give that sort of reason, 
if you can call it a reason, for rejecting Christianity; 
and then they go off and complain that Christianity is 
so anthropocentric! 

XXXV On the Great Relapse 

As I have here suggested, at frequent intervals and in 
various ways, I profoundly distrust and disbelieve in 
the whole of that movement which may be roughly 
called the Reaction after and against the Great War. 
As a sane man, not to tnake any claim to being a decent 
Christian, I naturally desire peace rather than war; and 
I am enough of an English patriot to have faced the 
fact, in many ways a rather unpleasant fact, that war 
just now might be even worse for England than for 
Europe. But I profoundly distrust and disbelieve in all 
those shades of negative revulsion, ranging from 
Pacifism to Pro-Germanism, which have actually passed 
liked waves over the Press and the political sentiment 
of the country during the post-war period. I think Eng- 
land was a great deal nearer to establishing peace on the 
day she declared war than she is now, when any num- 
ber of other nations are likely to declare war in spite 
of her. I think she was nearer to re-establishing a real 
unity of Europe when she was fighting with the Prus- 
sians than when she was merely quarrelling with the 
French. I believe that a real council of the Allies, if 


they had been guided by one clear and consistent theory 
o Europe, would have done better work for peace than 
the League of Nations. These are not views that have 
o late been common; perhaps they are not views that 
can even now be popular. But they are views in which 
I myself have never wavered, and in which I have of 
late been very strongly confirmed. Long ago, before 
the Balkan Wars or the Russo-Japanese War, I remem- 
ber writing in this general sense: that there were two 
forces in the world threatening its peace, because of 
their history, their philosophy and their externality to 
the ethics of Christendom; and they were Prussia and 
Japan. I remember horrifying all my Liberal friends, 
when I wrote for the Daily News in the days of my 
youth, by saying this about Japan. I did not, however, 
modify my view then. I am certainly not likely to 
modify it now. 

But my subject here is the nature of that post-war 
Reaction. Nobody, I think, has tried to analyse that 
mood, in which a cold fit of war-weariness followed so 
very rapidly on a very hot fit of war. Psychologists have 
been let loose everywhere on every subject; we have 
heard all about the psychology of war and the psychol- 
ogy of war-propaganda. We have not heard much about 
the psychology of anti-war propaganda, or why the very 
same men who were first fanatical for the one should 


afterwards be equally fanatical for the other. Now, to 
begin with, I deeply distrust the mood because it was 
a mood. It is not only true that it was merely emo- 
tional; it is almost true that it was merely physical. 
People were sick of war in the real sense that it made 
them sick. It was very natural, and, up to a point, even 
very healthy, as being physically sick can be an indica- 
tion of health or an improvement of health. But sick- 
ness is not an opinion; far less a conviction. Disgust is 
more violent than disapproval, but it is much less strong 
than disapproval. And nothing is more essentially un- 
stable than the sort of disgust that merely follows upon 
excess. In short, the peace mood just after the war was 
the well-known mood of the Morning After the Night 
Before. It was the headache of the drunkard whose ex- 
cesses in drink have gone to his head. As the mere blind 
bibulous wine-drinker may be weary of wine, so the 
mere journalistic Jingo was weary of war. Certainly, the 
reaction was healthy in so far as some of the fevers and 
ravings of the war period had been unhealthy. Cer- 
tainly, at least, the reaction was human, because the 
strain of war is in its nature inhuman. But there is noth- 
ing fixed or final or responsible or enduring about a 
feeling of that kind; even if it is human, even if it is 
healthy. In a week the drunkard will have lost his 
headache, and may very probably continue his scien- 


tific experiments, directed to test the strength o his 
head. The mere nausea which comes through having 
seen the same thing for five years will weaken in people 
who have not seen it for twelve years. A new genera- 
tion, which has not experienced the horrors of war, will 
rise brandishing sabres and bayonets; as in Prussia. A 
remote country, which was not drawn deeply into the 
war, will soon be ready for a new war of its own; as in 

Peace must not be useful merely as an emetic, but 
as an ethical diet rather than a medicine. It must be 
founded on some theory of things; on some conception 
of history and humanity; on some philosophy of the 
nature of the nations and the true international ideal. 
Now there was another and deeper defect in the anti- 
war reaction in England. It was not a new light on 
things, or a new theory of things, or a closer compre- 
hension of other countries and the rest of civilization. 
On the contrary, it was a relapse into all our own old 
theories about other countries, including our old con- 
tempt for other countries. The more Pacifist England 
was actually a more insular England. For six years we 
abused our enemies; for six more years we abused our 
allies. And now our popular patriotic Press seems to 
have settled down into abusing them both, while refus- 
ing to accept any responsibility for the result. We have 


relapsed into the most insular and insolent and ignorant 
phase of our past history: the phase in which all French- 
men were frogs and all Germans were sausages. In pa- 
triotic cartoons today you will see all the foreigners 
dressed up as figures of fun which are no longer even 
funny, except in the sense that educated people had 
learnt to laugh at such ignorance even in Victorian 
times. The Frenchman with waxed moustaches and 
shrugged shoulders; the German with walrus mous- 
tache and enormous pipe; the Russian with fur cap and 
bushy beard these grotesque fossils of prehistoric prej- 
udice would have been much too crude for the time 
of Tennyson and Prince Albert. Cultivated men of that 
Victorian epoch would have classed them with the old 
legend that the Pope wanted to introduce wooden 
shoes; or that Boney was a real ogre out of a fairy-tale. 
Yet the final result of our negative or neutral attitude, 
to friends and foes, has been a mere sinking back into 
these old stupidities, which the world had actually out- 
grown on the day when England and France and 
Flanders took the field against Prussia. We were more 
truly international in that international war than we 
are now in this swaggering, self-flattering, vulgarly 
Jingo peace. 

Finally, in that long stretch of years since the war, 


which have been full of urgent and feverish talk about 
the necessity of keeping the peace, nobody has really 
tried to prevent war at all. Nobody has done the one 
really difficult and indispensable thing; the only thing 
that might possibly avert a war in the earlier stages of 
a quarrel. Nobody has tried to look at the side opposite 
to his own side. Whenever our Pacifist writers were 
blaming anything or anybody, they never paused for 
one moment to ask whether there was any defence for 
what they attacked. When people thought France was 
wrong in the quarrel, they wrote exactly as they did 
when they thought Germany was wrong in the war. 
They were not trying to compose the quarrel; they were 
only trying to prove that they were right in the quarrel. 
If they really wanted to avert war in Europe, they 
should have started from the very beginning with full 
statements of the case for each of the quarrelling States 
of Europe. They should have been careful especially to 
state the case for those whom they liked least. We know 
they have done nothing of the sort. Mr. H. G. Wells 
has written a thousand pages in favour of Peace, but not 
one page in favour of Poland. Lord Russell has said 
much, from his point of view, to deter men from fight- 
ing, but nothing that would deter Mussolini from 
fighting; and nothing certainly that could deter any 


Communist from fighting Mussolini. To examine, 
prove, disprove, or reconcile the philosophies o Europe 
that would be a task for a philosopher, but not for 
a philosopher like Bertrand Russell. That is the only 
way to Peace; and few be they that find it. 


XXXVI On the Next Hundred Years 

EVERYONE will be pleased to see that Mr. H. G. Wells 
has again resumed his provocative character of prophet, 
and recently started in a well-known Sunday paper 
what is described as a History of the Next Hundred 
Years, It may be suggested that it is rather unfair that 
such a work should be criticized when it has only just 
started. Yet I do not admit the objection; for this very 
vital reason that the only thing I really object to 
about the prophecy is the place where it starts. 

It does not start from where you and I have to start, 
poor devils; from the actual crisis and condition in 
which we find ourselves. It starts from a perfect social 
condition, that is supposed to exist some indefinite 
number of centuries hence. Mr. Wells takes his fixed 
point in the future; and from that finds it easy to show 
that all our modern politics and economics are unfixed 
which, God knows, is very true. But there is always 
something a little irritating about a man writing as a 
Utopian; not in the sense of one who desires Utopia, 
but in the sense of one who already inhabits Utopia. 
He represents himself as a man living in a society of 


perfect ease and equality and equity; and gazing with 
cold compassion and unsympathetic sympathy upon us 
who are struggling in a tangle of cross-purposes, which 
is often quite as much a complexity of virtues as a com- 
plexity of vices. Anyhow, I think this trick of starting 
from an imaginary and ideal state in the future is a 
little unfair. Mr. Wells would think it unfair, if I 
wrote a book in the capacity of an Angel, or from the 
standpoint of a saint beatified in heaven; and then 
pointed out how paltry all our little scientific experi- 
ments, our pottering about with political and social 
reforms, our arguing about philosophical and literary 
problems, appeared to a higher intelligence upon the 
plane of Paradise. It seems to me quite as unfair when 
it is only an Earthly Paradise. For instance, Mr. Wells 
very rightly condemns the dirty intrigues of modern 
finance, and the secret omnipotence of modern finan- 
ciers. I do not complain of his saying, as I should say 
myself, that a more healthy and vigilant society would 
make such conspiracies much more difficult. But his 
Happy Man of the Future simply says that they would 
be impossible, because an office called the Bureau of 
Transactions would have made them impossible, 

Now this affects me very much as if he were to say 
that in the perfect State he and I could not even differ, 


because everything would have been resolved by the 
Bureau of Agreements. It is quite an arguable logical 
fancy, such as might have figured among the thousand 
happy fancies of his early work, that knowledge might 
be so finally mastered and spread out that it would be 
impossible for Mr. Wells and myself to argue about 
anything, any more than we argue now about the 
trains in Bradshaw, or the plan of the maze at Hamp- 
ton Court. Everybody would know everything, and 
there would be no such thing as a matter of opinion. It 
would be quite as certain, say, that supernatural religion 
had been a good or a bad thing for men, as that a cer- 
tain amount of poison will kill a man or that a certain 
particular antidote will save him. There will be an enor- 
mous Encyclopaedia of Everything, in which every 
question once disputed will be definitely settled; and it 
will contain no mistakes, except possibly misprints, like 
the big Telephone Directory. I can imagine Mr. H. G. 
Wells, especially in his youth, writing quite a fasci- 
nating fairy-tale of science along exactly those lines. 
But I should not believe in his fairy-tale about the 
Bureau of Agreements; nor do I believe in his fairy-tale 
about the Bureau of Transactions. I heartily believe 
that the secret and sordid transactions now allowed in 
finance and commerce could be brought much more 


under public and responsible inspection than they are. 
So, for that matter, I am quite willing to believe that 
there might be a much larger agreement about the facts 
of history and science, which would save us from a 
number of benighted quarrels founded on popular 
science and cheap patriotic history. It would be quite 
as much advantage to my side of the quarrel as to his. 
It would be a great relief for us to know that there really 
was a universally accepted book of reference, which 
would for ever forbid men to believe that Galileo was 
tortured and burned, or that the Immaculate Concep- 
tion is the same as the Incarnation. It would save us a 
lot of trouble in explaining things. But I do not believe 
that the Encyclopaedia of Everything would really and 
completely settle every dispute; and I do not believe 
that the Bureau of Transactions would finally and for 
ever prevent the possibility of scandalous transactions. 
And I do not believe it, because I do believe my eyes; 
because I do believe such actual experience as I have 
had in fifty years of meeting my fellow-creatures, and 
gradually forming an opinion about all these jolly fel- 
lows, and what is the matter with them. 

In short, the simple answer to the Superior Person, 
who looks down scornfully on our scandals and our 
sins from the Utopia of a few centuries hence, can be 
stated in the plainest possible words: "What happens 



when the Bureau of Transactions also becomes cor- 
rupt?" What happens when the Bureau of Trans- 
actions begins to have its own secret transactions? It 
may be against the whole plan and purpose and ideal 
of the institution to admit any such slackness or secrecy. 
So it is against the very name and title of a Court of 
Justice to be unjust. So it is against the very name and 
title of the distribution of Honours to fail upon the 
point of honour. So it is a violation of democracy for 
demagogues to deceive the people; or a violation of the 
very nature of a newspaper that its proprietor should 
suppress the news. But, somehow, we have all heard 
of these things being done. What we want to know is 
how the Angels who work in the Bureau of Trans- 
actions in the Utopia to be established centuries hence 
are guaranteed to be good at every minute of their 
mortal and troubled lives, and never to fall one inch 
for one instant below the highest and hardest and most 
heroic standard of human watchfulness and self-control. 
As I have already explained, I am in no sense arguing 
that the Bureau of Transactions will not be a reform, 
or a much-needed reform, or a reform that may really 
deal with scandals like that of Kreuger. I am not saying 
it will not be a reform; I am only objecting to the 
placid implication that it will never need to be re- 



In other words, the implication, or ideal, that was 
once expressed in the title of Men Like Gods does 
really lie behind even the most reasonable demands for 
the improvement of men as men. Mr. Wells's imag- 
inary author, writing at an unknown date in an un- 
discovered country, does really talk as if the very idea 
of such base revolts or betrayals of the social order was 
to him unthinkable. What I deny is that there will ever 
be a social order in which they are unthinkable. There 
might be a very vigorous social order, in which for some 
time they were very nearly impracticable. But in the 
long run, I fancy, the healthiest social order would come 
back to being pretty thankful if it could say they were 
rare. And I do not believe that this result could be 
achieved, or even approached, by anything like a mere 
improvement in social machinery, or the establishment 
of Bureaus for Everything. I think it happens only 
when there is a strong sense of duty and dignity im- 
planted in people, not by any government or even any 
school, but by something which they recognize as mak- 
ing a secret call upon a solitary soul. I do not believe 
in Men Like Gods; but I do believe in Men With 
Gods; or, preferably (such is my fastidious taste in 
such matters), a God. That is another and much big- 
ger question, though it involves no more credulity than 


a complete belief in Utopia, My only point, here, is 
that it is at least as arbitrary for the great novelist to 
write his letters from Utopia, as it would be for me to 
date my criticism from Paradise.